Relief for the Nation
Congresswomen and the New Deal
As the Great Depression wore on through the 1930s, a wave of Members supporting New Deal legislation came into the House. Two of the best known women—Arizona Congresswoman Isabella Greenway and Caroline O’Day of New York—both fought for the needs of their desperate constituents and had personal connections with the Franklin Roosevelt administration.
Isabella Greenway's colorful personal story is laid out in this 1932 article. The photo of the newly elected Representative—stylishly dressed amidst a desert landscape—illustrates the balance between her background in the East Coast upper class as well as her experience with ranching and mining in the West. A school friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, Greenway often offered broad support for New Deal initiatives. Arizona’s more than 25 percent unemployment rate demanded most of her attention though, so the specific needs of the Arizona mining community were her top priority. The article references how both “buckaroos” and “white collars” elected her. This broad appeal was demonstrated in Greenway’s large margin of victory in her first election.
Caroline O’Day’s engagement in politics—and connection to Eleanor Roosevelt—began with the suffrage movement. In this photo, some 20 years after she first waded into politics, O’Day and her secretary pose for the news just after she took office in 1935. Like many others, O’Day championed better wages and working conditions for laborers and strongly supported federal intervention to relieve the effects of the Great Depression. She also expanded on her suffrage movement roots by promoting women’s involvement in local and national government. Both she and Greenway, along with Mary Norton, were the most recognizable women in Congress in the mid-1930s.