The 1930s were dominated by one of Americas greatest economic crises and during this time millions of Americans suffered. Unemployment was rife, seniors lost their life savings when banks collapsed, schools shut down and children went uneducated. During this time, women’s roles were mostly as homemaker and in the workplace remained traditional.
Eleanor Roosevelt published a book in 1933 in which she called upon women to use their courage and determination to help their families and, by extension, the country through this dire economic crisis. Most women in the 1930s were married and during this time the woman’s role as the center of the family became even more significant. The Great Depression served to reinforce the traditional gender roles with women as homemakers.
Women in the 1930s came up with remarkable ways to keep their families afloat during this time. They helped their families get by on less and maximized every opportunity to save money. For example, they bought yesterday’s bread, which was cheaper and used old fabric or blankets to line old coats. Women cut up adult clothing to fit their children and came up with a myriad of similar ideas to save money.
In the 1930s, the role of women in the workplace did not change very much. In 1930, about 11 million women were employed; and by 1940, 13 million women were employed. This is not considered a significant increase. Women’s wages were lower than men’s and most women worked in domestic service. Seventy-five percent of professional women were either nurses or schoolteachers, which remain traditional roles for women.
- Encyclopedia.com: The 1930s: Lifestyles and Social Trends: Overview
- "Holding Their Own: American Women in the 1930s"; Susan Ware, 1982
- Fox Photos/Valueline/Getty Images