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I think that one word could summarize what women were doing during the 1930s. That word would be "struggling." Women were experiencing much in way of hardship in the 1930s. The economic calamity that gripped all of America in the Great Depression impacted women as badly as men, if not worse.
Since there are disparate groups and classes of women, each with their own experiences of and struggles in the 1930s, I'll pick one group to highlight. Upper class women were saddled with trying to convince their husbands, fathers, uncles, or brothers that all was not lost with the financial crash leading to and of the Great Depression. Men were shocked by and ashamed of the reality of the Great Depression. Faced with the shame of losing their money and the inability to financially supply for their families, many men left their families and took to a rootless existence. Even those who stayed with their families were held hostage of having to go wherever there was work. This helped to increase the difficulty for women who were now thrust in the position of being the sole breadwinner or having to provide more of the emotional compass for the family's survival.
In addition to this, women experienced a type of "culture shock" with what they experienced in the previous decade. The 1920s Jazz Age mentality encouraged women to live a superficial existence, where "flappers" worried about the bobbed hair, the short dresses, and finding the most "copacetic" party. The conditions that defined what it meant to be a woman in the 1930s were a seismic change. Women no longer were able to deal with such trivialities. Rather, they had to deal with the brutal reality in front of them. The settings had changed from superficial to real, and in both conditions, the definition of what it meant to be a woman experienced massive change, making life difficult for women in the 1930s. This meant that women in the time period were either struggling to survive or struggling to adapt to what conditions were placed upon them.
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