Historical Context

The Great Depression
The Great Depression was the most devastating economic period in American history. It began in late 1929 and did not end until the early 1940s. Brought on by economic instability and uneven distribution of wealth in the 1920s followed by a major stock market crash, the depression affected not only the United States but most of the world’s industrialized nations. It finally ended when the government spent massive amounts of money on the effort for World War II.

Over the course of the depression, businesses failed, people lost jobs and homes, a drought ravaged the Great Plains, and charities were overextended. By 1933, over nine thousand banks (almost 40 percent of the nation’s total) had collapsed, taking millions in people’s savings with them. Considered by many to be the worst year, 1933 also saw unemployment rise to 25 percent, accounting for over 15 million people.

While millions of people lost their jobs, others were forced to take reductions in pay. Desperate, some people resorted to digging through garbage dumps or eating weeds. Many men, unable to find other work, sold apples and provided shoe shines to make a little bit of money. Traditionally, men were responsible for supporting their families, but the depression forced other members of the family to seek work. Women, who were not hired for manufacturing jobs, were less likely to lose their jobs as clerks, teachers, and social workers. Children...

(The entire section is 494 words.)