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

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

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

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

Excerpt

San Antonio, Texas March 12, 1939

To Mr and Mrs Roosevelt

Dear president I am coming to yo in the lowest manner I ever been taught asking is there any way yo can help me to get some work on the p w a. I have been trying to get some work on the p w a for over 2 years but they will turn me away. I am a poor widow and has a little grandson to take care of has no way to pay my rent was put out of doors a few days a goe. I beleave you are a servant of god and I beleave yo will help those who will ask yo in the name of the lord.

Yours truly Katie Lee Ackles 112 Armstrong St

THIS work recounts the experiences and describes the behavior of women who lived through the Depression in San Antonio, one of America's poorest cities. The Depression exacerbated problems of low wages, substandard housing, and poor health conditions that afflicted San Antonio before the crash. Separately and together San Antonio women experienced economic disasters and dislocations that were worse than those of most other American communities. Not all groups bore San Antonio's distress equally.

In a geographic sense the women of San Antonio's racial and ethnic groups frequently were separated from each other, residing in distinct enclaves. Anglos dominated the North Side, blacks clustered on the East Side, and Mexican Americans concentrated in West Side slums. Differences in wealth and surroundings reinforced the geographic separation.

The casual visitor who strayed from the North Side or the Central Business District into the neighborhoods of the poor immediately confronted the realities of residential segregation. In the 1930s a three-to-four- block stretch of shops and other businesses on East Commerce Street com-

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