A Catholic New Deal: Religion and Reform in Depression Pittsburgh

Paperback | December 12, 2005

byKenneth J. Heineman

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Our popular image of the era of the Great Depression is one of bread lines, labor wars, and leftist firebrands. Absent from this picture are religiously motivated social reformers, notably Catholic clergy and laity. In A Catholic New Deal, Kenneth Heineman rethinks the religious roots of labor organizing and social reform in America during the 1930s. He focuses on Pittsburgh, the leading industrial city of the time, a key center for the rise of American labor, and a critical Democratic power base, thanks in large part to Mayor David Lawrence and the Catholic vote.

Despite the fact that Catholics were the core of the American industrial working class in the 1930s, historians (and many contemporary observers) have underestimated or ignored the religious component of labor activism in this era. In fact, many labor historians have argued that workers could not have formed successful industrial unions without first severing their religious ties. Heineman disputes this, arguing that there would have been no steelworkers union without Pittsburgh Catholics such as James Cox, Patrick Fagan, Carl Hensler, Phil Murray, and Charles Owen Rice. He presents a complex portrait of American Catholicism in which a large number of activist priests and laity championed a distinctly Catholic vision of social justice. This vision was anti-Communist, anti-Fascist, and anti-laissez faire. These Catholics, in turn, helped to make the Democratic Party and the CIO powerful organizations. A Catholic New Deal shows conclusively the important role that religion played in the history of organized labor in America.

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Our popular image of the era of the Great Depression is one of bread lines, labor wars, and leftist firebrands. Absent from this picture are religiously motivated social reformers, notably Catholic clergy and laity. In A Catholic New Deal, Kenneth Heineman rethinks the religious roots of labor organizing and social reform in America du...

Kenneth J. Heineman is Associate Professor of History at Ohio University and the author of Campus Wars: The Peace Movement at American State Universities in the Vietnam Era (1993) and God Is a Conservative: Religion, Politics, and Morality in Contemporary America (1998).

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.68 inPublished:December 12, 2005Publisher:Penn State University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0271028866

ISBN - 13:9780271028866

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“To satisfy this need, he has written A Catholic New Deal, an eye-opening and and compelling narrative of the role of ethnic Pittsburgh Catholics in building and sustaining a reform-minded Democratic party and a militant union movement during the Depression. His work more than amply shows how Catholic ideas, leaders, and workers contributed to reform politics and unionization during the thirties.This path-breaking book deserves a serious reading by anyone attempting to understand American Catholicism, ethnic history, reform politics, or the successful University of St. Thomas.”—David L. Holloway, American Studies