Americans View Their Dust Bowl Experience

By John R. Wunder; Frances W. Kaye et al. | Go to book overview

PLAINS WOMEN: RURAL LIFE IN THE 1930S

Dorothy Schwieder

Deborah Fink

During the Great Depression, farm families throughout the nation experienced severe economic difficulties. Since then, historians and other scholars have analyzed and reanalyzed the basic problems of American agriculture and the solutions offered to those problems. Only recently, however, have the scholars begun to take a wide view of rural society during the 1930s and begun to look at the dynamics of the farm family: the roles, influences, and contributions of farm women and the work roles and treatment of farm children. 1

In keeping with this broadened understanding, we will examine the work roles of plains women during the Great Depression by studying rural society without assuming that agriculture, as represented by crop and livestock production, subsumed the entirety of farm life. Although farm women performed similar tasks regardless of their location within the so-called breadbasket of the central United States, we believe that a close examination of farm women's roles in Nebraska and South Dakota, with particular emphasis on Boone and Lyman counties, will indicate a distinctive plains pattern. Work roles were often the same as those of farm women in other parts of the Middle West, but the results of that work and the difficulties women encountered were strongly influenced by the plains environment, particularly during the Great Depression. 2


BOONE AND LYMAN COUNTIES

Nebraska and South Dakota each contain areas designated as prairie as well as plains. The eastern one-third of each state provides a natural transition between the prairie to the east and the Great Plains, sharing geographic features with both environments. The features of

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