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The Role of Women during the 30s

By JodiCogburn Dec 12, 2012 874 Words
The Role of Women During the ‘30’s
The 1930s were dominated by one of America’s greatest economic crises and during this time millions of Americans suffered. Unemployment was common, seniors lost their life savings when banks collapsed, schools shut down and children went uneducated. During this time, women's roles were mostly as homemaker and in the workplace remained traditional. Women were viewed as caretakers of the home, or working jobs such as nurses and teachers. Only 24.3 percent of all women in the United States were employed at that time, as most were taking care of their families. When the Great Depression hit, women were viewed as money grubbers, because they were 'taking' jobs from men who needed the jobs to support their families. Politically speaking, although women were given the right to vote, they were not informed on current events, therefore were pretty unaware. The women’s roles were to clean, mend, and cook. Women who were widowed or divorced, or whose husbands had deserted them really struggled to keep their families afloat. If a woman was single, they had to fend for themselves. They would take in other people’s laundry to make ends meet. Like men, they suffered from the economic depression and poor working conditions. The typical woman in the 1930s had a husband who was still employed, although he had probably taken a pay cut to keep his job. If the man lost his job, the family often had enough resources to survive without going on relief or losing all its possessions. Women experienced the Depression differently based on their age, status, location, race and ethnicity. For example, the 1930s urban housewife had access to electricity and running water, while her rural equivalent usually struggled with the burdens of domesticity without such modern conveniences. Only one in ten farm families in 1935 had electricity. Farm families also struggled with declining agricultural prices, foreclosures, and in the Midwest, a terrible drought that contributed to the Dust Bowl migrations of that decade. African Americans, long subject to discrimination and prejudice, often viewed the Depression differently from whites. Times had always been hard, and suddenly they just got a lot harder. In 1930, nine out of ten African American women worked in agriculture or domestic service, both areas hit hard by the depression. Housewives who previously hired servants began to do their own housework; sometimes white women competed for jobs previously abandoned as too undesirable to black women. In the South and West, Mexican American women on the bottom rung of the economic ladder faced similar conditions, but with an added dimension: the threat of deportation back to Mexico because of fears about competition for jobs and relief. In the depths of the Depression, perhaps one-third of the Mexican American population returned to Mexico, straining family ties and causing extreme financial hardship. Not considered suitable for heavy construction jobs, women on relief worked in sewing rooms; black and Mexican American women faced racial discrimination as well.   Women also made remarkable ways to help their families get through the Great Depression. For example, they bought yesterday's bread, which was cheaper and used old fabric or blankets to line old coats. Women cut up adult clothing to fit their children and came up with a lot of similar ideas to save money. Wifehood and motherhood were regarded as women's most significant professions. Other woman worked as prostitutes. Women were considered naturally weaker than men, squeamish, and unable to perform work requiring muscular or intellectual development. An unmarried woman could own property, make a contract, or sue and be sued. A married woman, defined as being one with her husband, gave up her name, and virtually all her property came under her husband's control. John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men was affected by this some because Curley’s wife was judged by how she acted and because she was the only woman on the ranch. The men were used to being around men, not so much for women. Curley’s wife was married, but she tried to learn how the men could get used to her. She was definitely lonely, depressed, and at some times, quiet. She didn’t exactly know how to act because there were no other women around to talk to. She tried talking to the men, but they quickly just let her talk, then left her alone because she wasn’t a man. Curley’s wife was like Crooks in a way because she was different from the men. She was white, sure, but she was a woman, not a man. The men didn’t exactly let Curley’s wife join in the activities. They went into town, and she was left with Crooks, Lennie, and Candy. Curley’s wife was similar to this research because she was considered weaker than the men. But one big difference I saw out of Curley’s wife and this research paper is that it says that the women helped their families get through the Great Depression and when we read Of Mice and Men, I didn’t read anything about Curley’s wife being helpful. Not that I’m saying she’s lazy or anything, but she definitely didn’t help around at all. She basically just pranced around the ranch, acting like she could do anything.

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