The great depression is reported to have lasted for a total of ten years. The Great Depression is characterized by an economic downfall that affected a majority of Americans. All aspects of society were significantly influenced by 1933 by the great depression. As a result, the rate of unemployment rose from 3% to 25% of the total workforce in the nation. Those who still had jobs suffered reduced wages and the United States gross domestic income rose cut from $103billion to $55billion which is attributed to deflation. As a result of all these economic changes, a lot of American citizens suffered financially since they were not able to get their basic needs such as food, clothing, and consequently, the increased rate of unemployment subjected people to doing odd hard jobs to survive.
The great depression led many Americans to do hard and menial jobs to survive the harsh economic times. Judging from the letters from the packing house workers it is evident that a majority of people had to endure hardship and injuries in the workplace to sustain their livelihoods. Based on the interviews conducted by Betty Burke it is clear that the packing house, Union Headquarters Sikora Hall, 4750 S. Hermitage was not in a position to provide its workers with a conducive working environment. According to Marge Paca a 24-year-old who worked in the meat specialties which she describes as the coldest place in the yard. Theroom in which they worked was 60 degrees below zero, and they were not given appropriate equipment to work in such a cold condition. According to her, nobody was supposed to stay there longer than 3 minutes, but the workers ended up stayingup to 15 minutes.
Besides, the rate of employment during the Great Depression led to many married women joining the workforce. This is attributed to the fact that one source of income was not enough to sustain an entire family; therefore, married women had to work. Research also suggests that the rate of marriages declined during this period. Many men left their homes in search of greener pastures leaving their families behind. From the interview, Marge Paca describes the kind of work women had to do in the summer sausages. According to her, this kind of work was meant that for strong men but instead older husky women were assigned such jobs which led to a majority of them getting raptures. Paca herself lost 27 pounds in three months which was too much for her. African Americans together with, Mexicans also served as cheap Labor. For instance, the colored girls were put to work with vinegar in the department of packing pigs’ feet because their skin was not likely to get visible damage from the splashing vinegar. The great depression also led to the growth of labor unions. The labor unions were put in place to fight for the rights of workers as well as protect their common interest. The labor unions fought for better wages, safer working conditions and reasonable working hours for those who worked in the industrial sector. One of the interviewees, Pat Christie a 21-year-old, explains that she and other African American girls were in the CIO union to protect their rights and privileges in the industrial sector.
Children also did not escape the wrath of the Great Depression. They suffered since they lacked some of the basic needs such as clothing, shelter, and food. The Great Depression posed as a challenge to a majority of American families, and they suffered tremendous social, economic and psychological strains. Families from different ethnic, regional and racial background responded in different ways that the stress and demands placed upon them. In 1933, it was reported that the average family income had dropped by 40%, from $2300 to $1500. As a result, millions of families ended up losing their savings which led to the collapse of a majority of banks in the 1930s. According to a letter from Boston Massachusetts, the little young girl who is nine years old gives an account to the First Lady about her family’s situation. She tells the First Lady about the grocery shop that her father managed to open four months ago was not enough to sustain her entire family. She is in fear that they might lose the store. This can be backed up from the various letters that President Franklin Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt received during the great depression and the new deal. The First Lady specifically received so many letters from both women and children from all social classes and ethnic backgrounds that she had to hire an assistant. A majority of the writers were women and children who took this opportunity to air out their needs and ask for help. The increased rate of unemployment adversely affected the children in the sense that they were unable to get most of their basic needs. According to a letter from Union City Pa, the young girl asks the First Lady to provide her with a dress since her father can only get one job and her brother can hardly get any. She further explains to Mrs. Roosevelt that she is usually ragged and that she has to cry for clothes. This greatly shows how depression had negatively affected families.
In as much that the great depression affected every American, some of their experiences were different. For instance, African Americans had a difficult time since they were being assigned to hard jobs as compared to others. According to 21-year-old Pat Christie, a black woman was assigned with the responsibility of carrying 200 pounds of sausages alone at the Cudahy’s and Wilson’s sausage. She also says that they were given the task of dealing with vinegar. Additionally, those who were in Unions such as the CIO had a less harsh experience in the workplace since they were able to fight for their rights and privileges without any discrimination.
In conclusion, the great depression was the hardest economic period in the United States. A majority of people suffered and lost their livelihood due to the recession. Childrenendedup lacking the most basic of need which limited them from attending school. However, the New Deal brought about by President Franklin Roosevelt played a considerable role in setting reforms in the economic crisis that the American Economy was going through. CIO union played a massive part in bringing together different individuals from different social and ethnic groups since it played a huge role in ensuring women were perceived as influential decision makers in the community.
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