Forgotten Generation: American Children and World War II

Forgotten Generation: American Children and World War II

Forgotten Generation: American Children and World War II

Forgotten Generation: American Children and World War II


To many rural Iowans, the stock market crash on New York's Wall Street in October 1929 seemed an event far removed from their lives, even though the effects of the crash became all too real throughout the state. From 1929 to 1933, the enthusiastic faith that most Iowans had in Iowan President Herbert Hoover was transformed into bitter disappointment with the federal government. As a result, Iowans directly questioned their leadership at the state, county, and community levels with a renewed spirit to salvage family farms, demonstrating the uniqueness of Iowa's rural life.

Beginning with an overview of the state during 1929, Lisa L. Ossian describes Iowa's particular rural dilemmas, evoking, through anecdotes and examples, the economic, nutritional, familial, cultural, industrial, criminal, legal, and political challenges that engaged the people of the state. The following chapters analyze life during the early Depression: new prescriptions for children's health, creative housekeeping to stretch resources, the use of farm "playlets" to communicate new information creatively and memorably, the demise of the soft coal mining industry, increased violence within the landscape, and the movement to end Prohibition.

The challenges faced in the early Great Depression years between 1929 and 1933 encouraged resourcefulness rather than passivity, creativity rather than resignation, and community rather than hopelessness. Of particular interest is the role of women within the rural landscape, as much of the increased daily work fell to farm women during this time. While the women addressed this work simply as "making do," Ossian shows that their resourcefulness entailed complex planning essential for families' emotional and physical health.

Ossian's epilogue takes readers into the Iowa of today, dominated by industrial agriculture, and asks the reader to consider if this model that stemmed from Depression-era innovation is sustainable. Her rich rural history not only helps readers understand the particular forces at work that shaped the social and physical landscape of the past but also traces how these landscapes have continued in various forms for almost eighty years into this century.


It was a paradoxical alignment of principles and priorities,
and the more Americans emphasized the importance of their
own rights and goals, the less they regarded or respected the
rights or even the lives of groups of people they considered
to be “others.”

—Kerry A. Trask, Black Hawk: the Battle
for the Heart of America

A child’s world always has had odd dimensions, as narrow as
the backyard or a corner of the kitchen, but as broad as the

—Reed Karaim, “A New Era in Play,”
usa Weekend (December 14–16, 2007)

Children have always presented a paradox: time and energy, devotion and discipline, joy and grief, heartache and headache, money and still more money. and the writing of the history of children also presents its dilemmas—how to portray and respect a generation not only through traditional historical sources such as newspapers, magazines, government documents, educational reports, and census data but with an ear for children’s own voices and an eye for particular young vantage points to capture and paint a true portrait of children’s historical lives.

Children often have a skewed sense of chronology—certainly the days march on, but the order is easily mixed up. Linear time gets slightly out of order, becoming circles and spirals. (Swings. Teeter-totters. Merry-gorounds.) Children crave a rhythm of repetition, routine, and pattern, yet . . .

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