Women of the Depression: Caste and Culture in San Antonio, 1929-1939

By Julia Kirk Blackwelder | Go to book overview

[3]
Coping: Middle- and Upper-Class Women

They had cut my salary so badly. I don't know how a lot of people managed.

-- Carmen Perry, teacher

Today is pay day. It don't mean much, but we are all thankful to have one.

-- May Eckles, clerical worker1

MAY ECKLES was fifty-four years old at the time of the great crash. Her life revolved around family and work. She lived with a sister in a comfortable but not luxurious home on the North Side. With family members she had invested in property in San Antonio and in the Rio Grande Valley. She was secure in her job as a clerk in a realty title office in the Bexar County Courthouse. She filled her evenings talking with friends and relatives. They talked of local politics, family and children, job dissatisfaction, unsatisfactory household help, and others' marital problems. Holidays brought family visits and feasting. Two days before Christmas, 1929, May and her sister bought a live turkey and trembled at the prospect of killing and dressing it. As the Depression set in, holidays passed without special treats and with little or no excitement or comment. From time to time May entertained Mr. Pugh, a gentleman friend from the Valley. When Pugh received a ticket for running a stop sign, May took the citation to the courthouse and asked a friend to look into the case.

Although May and her sister, "Buzzie," lived on modest incomes, they could afford to hire help with household chores. "Maria, the Mexican girl," came in to cook and clean from time to time. The laundry was taken to the home of a laundress, but May shopped around and drove a hard bargain as an employer:

We took wash over to a Mexican woman in the alley behind Mrs. Hughes this morning, as we are so disgusted with the way Irene, Deliah's daughter is doing the

____________________
1
Interview with Carmen Perry, May 22, 1979; "A Diary Setting Out the Life of May Eckles," February 15, 1932 (typed copy, Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library, San Antonio); subsequent details and quotations are taken from this diary, hereafter cited as Eckles diary.

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