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Abraham Epstein, Worker for Social Security, Talks of Battles

June 27, 1934
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Abraham Epstein is still a young man, and he certainly was a young man when he first dedicated himself on a full-time basis to the cause of old age security for which he has been recognized as the principal spokesman. But recently, in keeping with developments, he broadened his work to embrace social security of all types, and the organization with which his efforts have been associated since its inception has changed its name from the American Association for Old Age Security to the American Association for Social Security.

Seated in his office at 22 East Seventeenth street, Mr. Epstein talks of his battles, mostly legislative, on behalf of old age pensions, unemployment insurance, health insurance and related causes.

It is often a disheartening struggle, but from year to year results are reported and Mr. Epstein, as executive secretary of the association and others connected with the work, feel encouraged to go on.


The group came into being in February, 1927. At that time less than 1,000 persons were on old-age pensions, according to Mr. Epstein, and today there are some 140,000 pensioners, For eight years an unremitting campaign has been carried on in Congress as well as in state legislatures. The results speak for themselves.

Mr. Epstein, not content with his numerous contributions to periodicals, his books, the latest of which is “Unsecurity—A Challenge to America,” and frequent appearances on the public platform, seizes every opportunity for propagating his gospel. He is eager even for private conversations when those give him a chance to explain the necessity and other aspects of social security. He explains his stand thus:


“The need for sounder and more definite provisions for the security of the masses if the present industrial order is to be maintained is urgent. There are those who wish to see our present injustices perpetuated in order to precipitate the complete collapse of the present social organization and the introduction of production for use instead of profit.

“I do not, however, see eye to eye with them as to the imminence of the collapse. I am convinced that the social revolution is distant. I am axious to relieve today as much of the misery as can be alleviated without waiting. I firmly believe that considerable social progress can be achieved without social cataclysm and without condemning any social group to misery and degradation.”

Delaware, Mr. Epstein revealed, is the most progressive state to date in old-age provisions, not requiring citizenship of the beneficiaries. England is the most progressive country so far as social insurance is concerned, he believes.


While still a senior in the University of Pittsburgh, Mr. Epstein attracted wide attention by his published sociological studies on Negro life. He graduated with a B. S. degree in economics and has since done graduate work at Pittsburgh and Columbia. After acquiring his first diploma he was offered three scholarships, at Harvard, Clark and Minnesota. Instead, he became director of research for the Pennsylvania Old Age Pension Commission and occupied that post from 1918 to 1927.

Born in Russia in 1892, he came to this country at the age of eighteen. His wife, Mrs. Henrietta Epstein, is French. They have a son, Pierre, aged four. Mr. Epstein has no hobbies, but some of his rare moments of leisure are devoted to canoeing.

Right now he and his associates are busy drafting a bill for health insurance embracing all employed at $3,000 a year and below. There are other pressing problems, too. Summer months bring no respite in his work.

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