Well I guess it's bad now and it's bad primarily, I think, because we have so many. If one group pulls itself up, there's a great influx coming in.
--Former union organizer, 19791
THE histories of San Antonio women as workers and as family members reveal the degree to which generalizations about the national Depression experience camouflage the realities of the 1930s for individual groups. A privileged few passed through the Depression in ease, but overall San Antonians suffered more than did most other city dwellers. The women perceived and adapted to economic losses differently from men. Anglo, black, and Hispanic women faced very different circumstances in a city of low wages, high unemployment, and menacing slums. San Antonio women adopted many survival strategies: collecting commodities for the needy, sharing housing, taking in lodgers, seeking employment, applying for relief, striking against wage cuts, and engaging in criminal acts. Women did not choose freely among these options, however. Family status and caste heavily determined which of the options a woman might pursue.
Marriage, children, and the absence or death of the spouse were primary personal considerations in meeting the Depression. Black and Hispanic women married earlier than Anglo girls, but only among Mexican Americans was early marriage accompanied by high fertility. Black women bore the fewest children and Hispanic women the most, but overall Depression conditions lowered the birthrate. Because they had large families and because of poor health and nutrition within their families, Mexican- American mothers were the most likely of San Antonio women to experience the trauma of a child's death. Black women were the most likely to face the necessity of supporting themselves and their children after widowing, separation, or divorce. Anglo women had the best chances of raising their children in homes in which fathers were present continuously.
As family status defined women's needs, caste limited women's op-____________________