Women During the U.S. Great Depression

Men and women experienced the Great Depression in the U.S. differently. The Depression saw their roles in the household getting enhanced as they tried to make ends meet.

During this time, women who sought paid employment or relief risked public scorn or worse for supposedly taking jobs and money away from more deserving men. In 1939, when Norman Cousins realized that the number of gainfully employed women was rising, he offered a flippant remedy: “Fire the women and hire the men.”

Women struggled to be treated as equal citizens. They tried to fight against discriminatory federal programs such as National Recovery Administration codes that set higher minimum wages for men than women performing the same jobs. Agencies such as the Civil Works Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps offered jobs exclusively to men. Women were considered not suitable for heavy construction works,

The law and policies discriminated against women, depriving the political, social and economic rights. Consequently, women participated in major strikes and labour union organizations. The rights and needs of women were recognized when women started getting leadership positions. For instance, Frances Perkins and Eleanor Roosevelt used their positions to advance the causes of women.


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