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

By Julia Kirk Blackwelder | Go to book overview

[2]
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

____________________
1
Interview with Carmen Perry, May 22, 1979.

-25-

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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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