The Great Depression and the New Deal

By Robert F. Himmelberg | Go to book overview

5

Society and Culture in the Depression Decade

The depression wrought enormous changes in the nation’s political structure and its economic policy system, and these changes in turn led to a genuine and extensive movement upward in the social-economic status of tens of millions of industrial workers and urban ethnics. In other social realms, the impact was less profound. Improvement in the social position and the roles of blacks and of women have been central concerns during recent decades, but the depression and the New Deal came and went without effecting much change in them. One might expect also that prolonged hard times for so many Americans would have bred profound disillusionment with traditional values and cultural habits and that the depression decade would have generated important alteration in them, perhaps disturbed faith in the tradition of individualism, or undermined confidence in American capitalism. Change there was but here too its scope was quite limited.


THE DEPRESSION AND NEW DEAL AND WOMEN

Women’s place, as the decade of the 1930s began, still was principally the realm of domesticity. The societal expectation still presumed the sphere of women was the home, marriage, and children. The pre–World War I women’s rights movement had registered important gains for women respecting legal quality and had climaxed in 1920 with the passage of the women’s suffrage amendment. This triumph, however, betokened little change in the fundamental status of women. Rapid industrialization and urbanization since the 1880s had increased the number and proportion of

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