One more day of Low Power Mode, friends! I had hoped we’d be back to 100% today, but we had a few bumps during our travel over the weekend and didn’t get home until late last night. So, tomorrow.
In the meantime, remind me to tell you about how I lost my laptop at Logan Airport in Boston! (That was fun.) I recovered it 6 or 7 hours later, but still: good story, now that we can laugh about it.
Here’s an interesting tale. It’s also a bit of a love story.
It starts almost a century ago, when a young, would-be law student named Elizabeth Brandeis (“E.B” to her friends), had her heart set on Harvard.
Little problem: Harvard refused to admit women to its law school in the 1920s.
They wouldn’t even make an exception for E.B., whose father was Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (a Harvard man himself).
Instead, she enrolled at the University of Wisconsin law school in 1923. There, she met her future husband, a fellow student named Paul Raushenbush.
“She was brainy and shy, her hair long and dark,” as Michael S. Rosenwald put it in The Washington Post. “He was handsome and outgoing. On hikes and canoe outings, they fell in love romantically and intellectually.”
Sounds lovely. They graduated, married, and both became professors at Wisconsin.
Then, they found their calling.
Two more people enter the story here (although not the love affair; that would be awkward):
John R. Commons: a Wisconsin law professor who had tried but failed to advocate for an unemployment insurance law. E.B. and Paul Raushenbush became his acolytes.
Philip La Follette, a fellow Wisconsin Law graduate whose late father had been the state’s governor and served in the U.S. Senate, and whose brother was a sitting U.S. senator at the time.
La Follette wanted to run for governor, and he wanted to pass unemployment insurance legislation as part of his platform.
So, knowing his friends E.B. and Paul Raushenbush’s work with Commons, he asked them to draft something that could make it through the legislature.
They dove in, and included a key provision that became highly controversial (but survived): the idea that the whole thing had to be funded by employers, rather than employees, so that employers would have a disincentive to cut jobs.
La Follette won the election, and E.B. and Paul’s proposed legislation garnered just enough support. It became Wisconsin law in 1932.
Three years later, when President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act of 1935, that law included a national unemployment insurance policy, too—which was based largely, in turn, on the Wisconsin law.
“Their story is absolutely staggering to think about right now,” E.B. and Paul Raushenbush’s grandson told the Post. “It was their life’s work to make laws like this available to everyone.”
I find it interesting too. Maybe not, “absolutely staggering,” but it’s family, so we’ll allow it.
Tucked away at the end of all of this however, I find perhaps the most endearing part.
It’s that growing up, their grandson thought of E.B. and Paul not as lawyers or champions of the working class, but for other things: “the simple pleasures they all enjoyed together. Games of bridge. Sailing. Croquet.”
A lot of people who never heard of E.B. and Paul Raushenbush, and who never in a million years thought they’d need to file for unemployment, might agree that they owe them a small debt of gratitude.
And for the rest of us, a reminder: Everyone you meet has a story. Maybe even a consequential one you knew nothing about.
Thanks for reading! Photo by Evan Demicoli on Unsplash. I wrote about some of this before at Inc.com. During low power mode we usually skip the 7 other things section. I plan to be back at it shortly!
Duh — unemployment benefits are insurance! I never thought of it that way before. Thank you for calling out the origin of a benefit I was quite grateful for during the pandemic.
Today’s column is the type that got me hooked on this newsletter. It’s like Paul Harvey used to say during his radio broadcasts: “And now, the rest of the story.” I lived for a few years during the mid-late 70s in a small town just out of range of decent FM radio stations. Mr. Harvey was on an am station I ran across. His broadcast was a bright spot in my days.
“Paul Harvey Aurandt (September 4, 1918 – February 28, 2009) was an American radio broadcaster for ABC News Radio. He broadcast News and Comment on mornings and mid-days on weekdays and at noon on Saturdays and also his famous The Rest of the Story segments. From 1951 to 2008, his programs reached as many as 24 million people per week. Paul Harvey News was carried on 1,200 radio stations, on 400 American Forces Network stations, and in 300 newspapers.”