Brain Pickings

How Our Government Helps Us, in Vibrant Vintage Illustrations from 1969

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“As our country grows and changes, our government has more work to do and more laws to make.”

At a time of political tension that has exposed some of the ways in which our government doesn’t help us — at least not all of us — here comes a charming vintage reminder of all the ways it does, or at least is intended to. How Our Government Helps Us (public library), originally written in 1969 by Muriel Stanek as part of the same Social Studies Program series that gave us How People Earn and Use Money, How People Live in the Suburbs, and How We Use Maps and Globes, explores the various divisions and purposes of government — from healthcare to education to taxes — with a lens on how they affect our daily lives and what the ideals of good citizenship might be. The vibrant illustrations by Jack Faulkner bespeak in equal measures the era’s civic idealism and its typical gender stereotypes.

Some of the pages exude a bittersweet sense of a bygone era, like this memento from the golden age of the Space Race, a grim reminder of the critical condition of space exploration today:

Others embody “the problem that has no name,” depicting women’s sole purpose in civil society as mothers and girls’ destiny as seamstresses-to-be:

Others still come as a fine complement to these vintage infographics delineating the structure of government:

Complement How Our Government Helps Us with Maira Kalman’s illustrated chronicle of the Constitution.

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