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

By Julia Kirk Blackwelder | Go to book overview

[1]
The Neglected City

So it was a case of begging from the government to give you food to bring home to your children. They used to be sitting in a line out in the back yard of our office, a hundred at a time on a Saturday morning to get a grocery list so they could take home the food that was necessary for their family: three, four, five, one--an old man by himself, a woman. And I was moved by every age, whether it was a family with children, whether it was an old man or old woman. It just got me, that I could not stand it.

-- Adela Navarro, caseworker in Depression San Antonio1

As a caseworker, Adela Navarro knew well the plight of the city's unemployed. She also understood that when a hungry person begged for food in San Antonio few heard the cry. Men and women gave generously of their time and money in efforts to feed and clothe the needy, but volunteer campaigns could make little progress in battling the suffering that afflicted the city. Throughout the 1930s city and county officials were adamant in their resistance to dispersing local tax revenues for relief or on public projects. As Navarro recalled, it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who "threw open the doors of the warehouses and fed the people of San Antonio."

San Antonio in 1930 was an urban center of about 230,000 persons with an additional population of 60,000 in the rest of Bexar County (appendix B, table 1). Approximately 8,000 residents of Depression San Antonio were European immigrants, among whom Germans were the most numerous. There were few persons of Oriental or American Indian extraction, and the city's 18,000 blacks formed an unusually small community for a southern city of such size. More than 83,000 residents of the city were Mexican immigrants or persons of Mexican extraction, making San Antonio the second-largest Mexican-American community in the United States and placing blacks far behind Hispanics numerically as a minority population (table 2). Los Angeles, with a population of more than 1,000,000-90,000 of whom were Mexican-American--was the only city

____________________
1
Interview with Adela Navarro, May 29, 1979.

-13-

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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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