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Suffrage, and Other Important Topics of Note in 20th Century New York

New York has a complicated history of some very progressive policies, and some that are not so forward-thinking. A good example was slavery. As a northern state, and a part of the Union, New York was publicly opposed to slavery. Privately, slave-driven enterprise contributed heavily to the New York Stock Exchange, which helped it hold its title as the strongest stock exchange on the market for its time.

The 1890s was an important period for labor in New York. Irish immigrants were boosting the construction force, but labor conditions were far from favorable. Workers were broken up when they tried to gather, and the Democrats turned these demonstrations into talking points.

Those politicians were trying to appeal to male voters, so women suffrage represented a challenge to the clout they’d worked so hard to build. What changed? The wives and daughters of those politicians worked hard to convince their husbands and fathers that women’s suffrage was an important ideology, and not one that represented a serious threat to dominance.

When FDR took over as governor of the state in 1929, he was facing statewide unemployment numbers of 25%, a dramatic shift from the boom experienced during the Roaring Twenties. Aside from creating the Securities and Exchange Commission to help regulate the stock market in 1934, Roosevelt created the Federal Emergency Relief Administration and passed the nation’s first work relief programs.

In essence, New York was like the beta test for the New Deal that FDR would make famous when he became president in 1932.