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

By Julia Kirk Blackwelder | Go to book overview

[4]
Working: Women's Participation in the Labor Force

I am writing you this letter asking you to help me in getting work. I am willing to work at most any thing I can do and I realy kneed work if any one in this world does. I have 4 children out of school because I haven't the money to buy their school supplies. My husband is a carpenter and he don't draw much salary and dont get much work at that and is not able to work on account of his back. And I have tried to get work ever-where and they turn me down. . . .

If you don't help me I dont know what I am going to do for part of the time we don't have any thing to eat ever thing has gone up so high. I have done ever-thing I can to keep things going. I have made over old clothes for the children and I have saved in ever way I could to keep things going and we have gotten behind in everthing.

-- San Antonio, Texas, September 27, 1939

Mrs. Samuel Bush to Eleanor Roosevelt1

THE trend toward paid work outside the home has dramatically altered the style and the quality of the lives of twentieth-century women. From the establishment of the New England textile mills in the 1820s through the twentieth century, changes in the overall occupational structure have pulled women into the work force.2 The Depression highlighted the importance of occupational segregation and the transformation of work in drawing women into employment. Neither public fears that women might take the jobs of male family heads nor the employment collapse of the decade stopped the flow of women into the labor market during the 1930s. In San Antonio and elsewhere, however, women increased their representation only in "female" occupations that expanded as a consequence of changing technology or consumer tastes despite the grim state of the economy.

____________________
1
Records of the Work Projects Adminsitration, RG 69, Texas, file 690.
2
Thomas Dublin, Women at Work: The Transformation of Work and Community in Lowell, Massachusetts, 1826-69; Valerie Kincade Oppenheimer, The Female Labor Force in the United States, pp. 156-67; Elyce J. Rotella, "Women's Labor Force Behavior and the Growth of Clerical Employment in the United States, 1870-1930" (Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1977).

-60-

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • List of Illustrations xi
  • List of Tables xiii
  • Preface xvii
  • Acknowledgments xix
  • Introduction 3
  • [1] - The Neglected City 13
  • [2] - The Family and the Female Life Cycle 25
  • [3] - Coping: Middle- and Upper-Class Women 43
  • [4] - Working: Women's Participation in the Labor Force 60
  • [5] - Adapting: Occupational Segregation And Unemployment 75
  • [6] - Home and Shop: Wages and Working Conditions 90
  • [7] - Unemployment Relief and Emergency Job Programs 109
  • [8] - Women and the Labor Movement 130
  • [9] - Crime: the Role of Women 152
  • [10] - Consequences 168
  • Appendixes 185
  • Sources 255
  • Index 273
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