Previously published in Examiner
Part one of my latest series
We have already visited the gutsy, wild and fun loving 1920 flapper girls. However that bubble was soon to bust. October 29, 1929 the infamous Black Friday, was the day money ceased to flow, the day the well ran dry, and the day stock market crashed.
We will look at the situation in the USA and then take a look at the crash and how it affected Montrealers, and all women in the two great countries.
American Women cope with the Great Depression as best they can
Millions of families lost their life savings and one out of every three workers were unemployed, or on part time wages. It was the day that America fell to her knees and doom and gloom set in. Americans were starving in the cities while crops were rotting in the fields. “Thousands of shoe workers were laid off, while people walked the streets in cardboard shoes.”
Even President Roosevelt’s efforts could not turn the economy around. The great depression lasted until World War II, and in the meantime everyone had to adapt to the fast and furious economic disaster. One of the changes that occurred in the 1930’s was the role of women in society.
Adaptability, Compassion and Strength
Women withstood the challenges and held their lives and homes together with tremendous strength and endurance. Families looked out for each other sharing what little they had. Women forced to work took whatever work they could get. Even middle class women took work deemed well below their station. Women on the verge of destitution began to work in nontraditional and innovative jobs. Some became entrepreneurs and were able to become self-employed.
Shortage of Work and the Impact upon Women
Because of the shortage of work most employers refused to hire women who were married, justifying their stance with the fact that women would be taking away the jobs of the men who were the true breadwinners.
Nevertheless twenty-five percent of the work force was made up of women, though their work was very unstable or seasonal at best. There was still the culture bias that “women didn’t work” making it harder for those that had to work to obtain gainful employment.