Previously published in Examiner
Part 5 of the Forgotten Women of the Great Depression Series
Ageism was also rampant in during the great depression and not much has changed in the USA or Canada and Montreal today. Employers were looking for young women, especially young white stenographers and secretaries no more than 25 years old. This examiner has already written about discrimination today and the requirements have not much changed in that respect, many employers are still looking for young pretty girls under 25 years of age to be secretaries while the rest of the female population settle for typist positions or clerical positions.
Forgotten women of the great depression
The myth still prevailed that women didn’t work. The focus was on the men and their problems finding jobs. Photographs often showed the men in the breadlines and selling apples on the street. Lack of work was considered a male problem. The women who needed to work to sustain themselves were often hidden from view. No one, not even the journalists wanted to accept this “women’s reality.” Government agencies were ill prepared for the amount of women who needed help during this time. A true account of how many women there were seeking beds or relief of any kind is not correctly recorded because many were turned away because they were not white and protestant.
Furthermore, many women didn’t have a permanent address at all. In order to find a place to sleep, they rode the 5 cent train all night, or they slept in the park. They ate from “penny kitchens.” Many women were proud and had to be practically starving before they would accept charity or hand outs of any kind.
Because of the depression fewer women were having babies that they knew they could not afford to feed. We visited the “race suicide” idea of the early 1900’s suggested by President Roosevelt and later dealt with by the Comstock Laws. Yet, in that time the women were having an average of 4 children per family, now in the Great Depression it was down to 2.2.
The new deal helped the man in these terrible times but did very little for destitute women. What woman in these circumstances, who could hardly provide for herself, would want to bring children into this world to starve along with her?
Concordia University University has a wonderful women’s studies program for Montrealers