ETI Publications

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Technical Paper

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The Milwaukee WPA Handicraft Project represents the largest public work program for unskilled women on welfare in Milwaukee County. Its success in providing meaningful employment to women with few obvious labor market skills was noted in the 1930s and attracts interest today as Wisconsin and other states initiate new “welfare to work” programs. For her lecture researcher Lois Quinn draws upon interviews with Mary Kellogg Rice (art director of the project from 1935 to 1942) and other project supervisors, published and unpublished project records, and studies of federal New Deal programs. Several project staff were available to discuss their work in detail, others associated with the project have left records and reflections on their activities, and many of the Milwaukee Handicraft products have been saved by public and private collectors. Concurrent with the 28th Annual Morris Fromkin Lecture, on October 30, 1997, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Chancellor John Schroeder presented the UWM Alumni Association’s “Special Recognition Award” to WPA workers “in recognition of their dedication to, and the historical achievement of, the Milwaukee WPA Handicraft Project in providing meaningful work for thousands of Milwaukee County women.” Milwaukee County Executive F. Thomas Ament presented the workers a special recognition “for outstanding and exemplary community service to the people of Milwaukee County.”