Family Life During the Great Depression

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What was it like for her father, who had four mouths to feed? What was life like during these arduous times?


Pearl and her parents, her brothers and uncle, and her family life... Everybody in the neighborhood was in the same boat...


Roz waited anxiously on the corner for her father to come home; she needed eleven cents to go to the movies....


Fay talks about her mother Chaika and her family life growing up in Brooklyn....

The immigrant family that had struggled to gain some foothold in the U.S. since their arrival and was able to establish themselves, often faced great obstacles. By the time the Depression hit (the problems began even before the Stock Market crashed in 1929), many Jewish families consisted of two immigrant parents and one or more American-born children, many of whom had already become independent and often self-sufficient.

Many of the immigrants who once lived in poverty in such countries as those in Eastern Europe were reminded of the economic misery that they experienced in their former homeland. Many of the prime breadwinners, the husbands, could not be sure that they would always have a job and thus feared that they would become unemployed, have no income, and would not be able to feed their families. The wife, who ran the household, had to be careful in the way she spent money, and had to ration out the food so that none would be wasted.

It was a time of great anxiety and insecurity, and many families had to struggle to survive. Of course, whatever expectations family members might have had for financial success before the Great Depression, were dashed during this period. The father, the person who was supposed to insure the financial stability of the family, often had to face the greatest obstacles. Because women were the ones who ran the household, the Depression did not diminish their role. They knew that they were in charge of the household, the finances and the children. The woman of the house learned how to be frugal when buying groceries and how to make the most out of what she had. When the wife did work, the money was considered to be supplemental. Not only did the man have to earn money to feed his wife and children, but also he had to deal with his own sense of self-worth. The unemployed man of the house grew to be a very unhappy and discouraged person, sometimes had to wait on breadlines.





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