Born in the recovery from the Depression
As a child, professor and historian Nancy Young watched the televised Watergate incident and visited campaign speeches in her free time with her politically active parents.
A lifelong Texan interested in politics, Young now researches how political institutions have shaped the lives of people through public policy during the early New Deal programs.
“My grandpa was a small banker in a small town during the Depression and grew concerned if he would make it and if his bank would make it, because there used to be no safety net,” Young said.
During the Great Depression, people in many states began to lose their trust in the government.
Young studies how former President Franklin D. Roosevelt created bank holidays and forced banks to be closely inspected before reopening. Through these types of political programs, the public grew to trust certain banks more because they saw that different regulations were required.
“People were living in horrific conditions — children starving to death — and the realization (came) that something had to be done through local sources,” Young said.
According to Young, at that time, various churches and relief programs were tapped out, so the federal government created public projects such as building bridges, post offices and hospitals, which was a significant step in American politics.
“She crosses that political line back and forth from conservatives and Democrats to try and evaluate where was the gray area,” said doctoral candidate Allison Hughes-Robinson, who is researching the institutionalization of women in the South.
Young’s research takes a closer look at political arguments about the shift and the degree to which political leaders understood the depth of the problem. The focus of her research comes down to the 1920s, when a huge economic downturn led to a significant federal effort to discover a solution to protect Americans.