Established in 1935 in the midst of the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was one of the most ambitious federal jobs programs ever created in the U.S. At its peak, the program provided work for almost 3.5 million Americans, employing more than 8 million people across its eight-year history in projects ranging from constructing public buildings and roads to collecting oral histories and painting murals. The story of the WPA provides a perfect entry point into the history of the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the early years of World War II, while its example remains relevant today as the debate over government's role in the economy continues.

In this concise narrative, supplemented by primary documents and an engaging companion website, Sandra Opdycke explains the national crisis from which the WPA emerged, traces the program's history, and explores what it tells us about American society in the 1930s and 1940s. Covering central themes including the politics, race, class, gender, and the coming of World War II, The WPA: Creating Jobs During the Great Depression introduces readers to a key period of crisis and change in U.S. history.

chapter @|6 pages


chapter Chapter 1|25 pages

Facing the Crisis

The New Deal Takes Hold

chapter Chapter 2|23 pages

Making Jobs the Priority

The WPA's Construction Projects

chapter Chapter 3|16 pages

A Thousand Useful Tasks

The WPA's Service Projects

chapter Chapter 4|24 pages

Even Artists Get Hungry

Federal One Brings Culture to the People

chapter Chapter 5|19 pages

WPA on the Roller-Coaster

Politics and Funding

chapter Chapter 6|20 pages

The WPA Under Fire

Challenges in Peace and War

chapter Chapter 7|21 pages

Remembering the WPA

Legacy and Lessons

part |34 pages


chapter Document 2|2 pages

The Public Responds to the Fireside Chat

chapter Document 3|4 pages

Men at Work

chapter Document 4|3 pages

Women at Work

chapter Document 5|4 pages

Harry Hopkins Describes His Job

chapter Document 6|3 pages

The WPA Blues

chapter Document 7|4 pages

A WPA Guidebook for South Dakota

chapter Document 8|4 pages

“A Vampire Political Machine”

chapter Document 9|2 pages

A Greeting from the Ladies

chapter Document 10|2 pages

An Honorable Discharge