The Family and the Female Life Cycle
Maybe sometimes situations like that have their own advantages. The family is more together. Today every kid has a car to go their own way. They live in apartments. We wouldn't have thought of that. . . . But like I said, families stuck together and could depend on each other.
-- Carmen Perry1
As San Antonio women articulated their concerns during the Depression and as they remembered the past, their thoughts ran first and last to family. Social worker Adela Navarro remembered her mother's watchful supervision of her children's education and her insistence on respectful behavior. Homemaker Ruby Cude recalled how hard her husband worked, sometimes holding down two jobs at one time, to make a comfortable life for his family. Store clerk Beatrice Clay reminisced about neighborhood sharing and backyard picnics that helped and cheered each of the families in her community. Family commanded deepest personal loyalties and constituted the primary economic unit in which a woman participated.
Marriage and the arrival of children were events that the average young girl expected in her life as well as the circumstances that most narrowly defined the roles she played in adulthood. Most girls coming of age in San Antonio in the 1920s married before or after a period of paid employment, stayed at home to rear the children, and did not enter the paid work force after marriage. The well-being of wives and of daughters living at home usually depended on the labors of male wage earners. For women who did not enter the work force, the vagaries of the labor market and the wage cuts of the 1930s were experienced second-hand in the form of sharply reduced household budgets, the sometimes awkward presence of husbands and fathers at home during their usual working hours, and male depression. The first responses of wives and daughters to financial setbacks were to adapt to a life-style of leftovers and hand-me-downs and to show support for male family members who felt shame for economic problems____________________