Sewing Project | Cleaning Projects | Houskeeping Aid Projects | School Lunch Project | Health Projects

This section was responsible for the employment of most of the women workers on WPA. When it was found that the women of a certain community needed relief work, the district chief of the section would consult with the township trustee, who was responsible for the dispensing of relief funds. Trustees gladly cooperated in organizing projects accommodated to the skills of these women. Project proposals were largely prepared in the district office and presented to the trustee for approval and signature. Thus began the sewing project, which was later written on a state-wide basis and at one time, employed 4,000 women over the state. (video clip, 581k) As the individual projects grew in size, some up to four or five hundred in a single unit, it became necessary to provide supervisors of sufficient training and experience from the non-certified rolls.

Since it was not possible to employ on the sewing project all women needing employment, those responsible for project planning consulted other agencies in the community to determine what other useful services were best adapted to fit the skills, or lack of skills, of these women. It was often found that the cleaning of public buildings had been neglected, and so were born cleaning and renovation projects. These were written to permit women and some men to wash walls and woodwork and do a general renovating job in court houses, city halls, libraries, jails, schoolhouses, hospitals, and other tax supported buildings. This project gave employment to thousands of unskilled persons.

When many local welfare agencies who had been approached for suggestions on social service tasks which might be performed by WPA workers reported that many relief and low income families suffered acutely when emergencies arose in the family, such as the birth of a new baby, illness or absence from the home of the homemaker, and illness of other members of the family, a housekeeping aide project was written. This project employed women, and trained them to do the simple homemaking tasks normally performed by the mother. This project grew in popularity and size until it became necessary to employ a state supervisor and district supervisors who were trained in home economics.

Many school authorities early reported to the Defense Health and Welfare section that their children were suffering greatly from malnutrition, which evidenced itself in the quality of their school work. Out of this need for good and well balanced food was born the school lunch project, sponsored on a state-wide basis by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and co-sponsored locally by principals of schools and by township trustees. (video clip, 690k) Many schools welcomed most eagerly the assistance offered them by WPA in preparing and serving hot lunches. Much of the food served was furnished by the government, which had bought up surplus farm supplies. The school lunch project, from the beginning, had great community appeal, as evidenced by the many instances of co-sponsorship by parent-teacher groups, sororities, clubs, and other civic groups. Early operating difficulties of this project were principally the lack of proper cooking and serving facilities in the schools, and the lack of proper feeding habits on the part of parents and school authorities. The trained home economists who were added to the WPA supervisory staff were able to show considerable progress in making parents and teachers nutrition conscious. WPA workers were given intensive training in menu planning. In order to insure the children's receiving balanced meals,food production and food preservation were made a part of the project. Many schools have continued the school lunch service begun by WPA.

Among the latest projects written were the state-wide health projects. Unlike other projects which started on a district basis and were later consolidated on a state-wide basis, these projects originated on the state level, sponsored by the State Board of Health. Workers were assigned to assist doctors and nurses in public health offices, laboratories, and clinics, and to supplement the staffs of public hospitals and institutions. The most valuable phase of this work was the training of non-professional workers for hospitals. This training of WPA employees resulted in practically one hundred per cent employment of the trainees by the hospitals concerned. Some of the hospitals were so impressed by the practicality of the idea that they are now giving workers induction training modeled on the WPA course for trainees. At the time the WPA program closed, over ninety-seven per cent of all WPA trainees in hospitals or institutions had been offered private employment by the agency or institution in which they were working, many cities and counties appropriating special funds to employ them.

(Source: Final Report of the Indiana Work Projects Administration, John K. Jennings, State Administrator, March, 1943.)

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