Anne Treadwell (1905-2002)

Anne Treadwell was in charge of the National Youth Administration (NYA) in California from 1935 to 1939.  In the 1990s, reflecting back on the (NYA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Treadwell remarked, “I have thought over and over that we should have a program of that sort during this current period when youngsters are joining gangs and buying guns and all this sort of thing.  There was nothing like that in those days.  I mean, youngsters didn’t feel they were totally abandoned or that nobody gave a thought to what they did with their lives.  It seems to me that was an extremely valuable thing.  I don’t think there were very many stray people who had nothing to do and no place to go… And I think we should have [these programs] in any situation where the social condition is deteriorated” [1].

Anne Treadwell was born Anne deGruchy on May 12, 1905 in San Francisco (at a residence at the corner of Franklin and Pacific Avenue) to William and Clare deGruchy.  She was home-schooled during her early years, attended Girls’ High School in San Francisco from 1918 to 1922, and then the University of California Berkeley from 1922 to 1926 [2].  Needing a job, Anne left college before graduating and caught a lucky break by meeting Dr. Harry Wyckoff of Stanford Medical School (then in San Francisco).  Wyckoff saw her potential and let her work with him in an unpaid position, after which she became manager of his outpatient clinic.  She later recalled that, “he was the only person who apparently saw some promise in this lump of unmolded clay” [ 3].  In 1939 she returned to the university to finish her undergraduate degree [4].

Anne married Earl Treadwell in 1930.  She became president of the San Francisco chapter of the League of Women Voters, ca. 1932-1934 [5].  When the League hosted the Roosevelts in 1932, Treadwell did the introductions for Anna Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt.  Of the latter, she recalled, “He didn’t make a long speech but it was very firm and the audience just was wild.  The place was packed” [6].  With her growing involvement in California government affairs, Treadwell made a trip to Washington, DC to learn about New Deal programs and their effect on California, after which she received a call from Aubrey Williams, national director of the NYA, and was asked to take charge of the NYA in California.  She accepted the offer: “I was terribly interested in the opportunity to give young people a chance” [7].

During her four years in charge of the NYA in California, Treadwell was responsible for thousands of young men and women working on public works projects – over 20,000 in June 1939 alone [8].  And these were as varied as WPA projects: roadwork, airfields, orchestras, clerical work, scientific studies, waterworks, tree plantings, and much more [9].  Treadwell recalled that Eleanor Roosevelt was especially interested in the NYA in California: “I think she went to a number of states but California she was especially interested in because it was so huge. She came out at least once a year and it was my job, of course, to take her around to show her the projects in action and she was just delighted to see them” [10].

Anne Treadwell left the NYA in July 1939 [11].  She remarried after a divorce, earned a master of science degree from the University of California, San Francisco, and enjoyed a varied career including the directorship of the bioassay facility at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory from 1960 to 1972 [12].  She died in San Francisco on April 1, 2002, at the age of 96 [13].

Sources: (1) “A Woman’s Place in Science and Public Affairs: 1932- 1973,” oral history of Anne [Treadwell] deGruchy Low-Beer Dettner, Regional Oral History Office, Bancroft Library, University of California, 1995, accessed January 28, 2017, pp. 100-101.  (2) Ibid., pp. xxi-xxiii and 9-15.  (3) Ibid., p. 47.  (4) Ibid., p. 48.  (5) Ibid., pp. xxi and 105.  (6) Ibid., p. 54.  (7) Ibid., p. 66.  (8) Federal Works Agency, Work Projects Administration, Report on Progress of the WPA Program, June 30, 1939, p. 139.  (9) See our summary of the National Youth Administration, here.  (10) See note 1, p. 71.  (11) The exact reasons for Treadwell’s departure are unknown.  There seems to have been a rift between her and the national director, Aubrey Williams (see, e.g., note 1, pp. 74-75).  But also see, “Mrs. Treadwell Quits N.Y.A. Post,” Los Angeles Times, July 27, 1939.  (12) See note 1, pp. xxi-xxii.  (13) “Anne Dettner,” SFGate, April 11, 2002.