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

By Julia Kirk Blackwelder | Go to book overview

[7]
Unemployment Relief and Emergency Job Programs

Many of us were desperate, the unhappy victims of circumstances over which we had no control. Patriotism was dying in our hearts and was being replaced by rebellion. It is unalterably true that shabbiness and hunger are the foes of self- respect. With our homes broken, our children scattered, our souls torn with anguish and desperation, we were ready for any scheme that might promise in the slightest measure relief from a situation that had become intolerable.

Some of us had lost our homes which were nearly paid for, had sold our furniture, piece by piece, our jewelry, and even most of our clothes, hoping against hope that something in the way of a job would materialize before the last cent was gone.

Just when all seemed lost and maddened by grief and fear we were ready for anything, this Adult Educational Program came, providing us with a means of livelihood, a ladder up which we could climb again to patriotism and self-respect.

-- Stella Boone and Ethel Stringer, WPA teachers, Sidney Lanier School1

THE WPA educational programs in San Antonio offered hope and economic assistance to scores of teachers, but the programs reflected local racial and ethnic prejudices as well. The vast majority of students and teachers were Anglo, but Mexican-American residents enrolled in some courses alongside Anglos and in other courses for Spanish-speakers. Adult classes in English, citizenship, and trade skills were offered through the "Americanization" program at the Sidney Lanier School, a Hispanic secondary school. Anglo and Hispanic women in San Antonio's education projects studied business and clerical subjects with the goal of gaining white-collar jobs. They also enrolled in such classes as furniture making that were created primarily to teach housewives to "make do" with home furnishings that could be constructed from scrap materials. Graduates of the home- improvement courses were expected to pass on their newly learned skills to female friends and neighbors. Under the WPA Anglo and Hispanic women were also employed in domestic work in the Housekeeping Aid Projects,

____________________
1
Letter to Mrs. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, May 6, 1936, Records of the Works Projects Administration.

-109-

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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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