Enrollee Work and the Body Politic
Chapter Three examines the everyday experiences of the more than three million working-class male youths who enrolled in the CCC between 1933 and 1942. It illustrates how Corps conservation work altered the American landscape while transforming CCC enrollees physically through weight gain, muscle development, and an increase in overall bodily health. This chapter links these corporeal changes, which helped convert many working-class enrollees to the conservationist cause, to an expansion of the movement's composition beyond progressive elites. It also argues that these same bodily changes broadened the conservationist philosophy to include a new concern for “human resources,” in this case young, American men. These same physical transformations also influenced New Deal politics in two important ways. First, the rejuvenation of young, poor men from America's cities helped raise political support for Roosevelt among the nation's urban working class. As important, at a time when New Deal opponents blamed immigrants for causing and exacerbating the Great Depression, Chapter Three argues that the CCC's promotion of work in nature as having an Americanizing influence also appealed to foreign-born urbanites. By rebuilding enrollee bodies, this chapter concludes, the CCC transformed the conservation movement while raising political support, particularly in urban America, for the New Deal.
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