Stories of the children of the Great Depression: What I learned from my parents
Robert H. Bosselman
The purpose of this study is to identify the strategies and skills parents utilized to provide for their family's basic survival needs, and the beliefs and values they embraced during the Great Depression to provide for the physical and emotional needs of their families in the midst of economic hardship. A qualitative research design utilizing a narrative inquiry approach was used to explore these issues. The research sample was composed of 12 men and women who were born in 1925 or earlier whose families suffered financial hardship during the Depression as evidenced by unemployment or underemployment of the main income provider, loss of home or farm to foreclosure, loss of savings through bank failures or stock market declines, or some other significant experience that seriously decreased their income during some period of the 1930s.
Five qualities were identified as important to the parents of most of the research participants in providing for their families during the 1930s: 1) a strong support network which was typically provided by a comprehensive type of "family relief;" 2) a strong work ethic of all family members of all generations; 3) the practice of thrift; 4) the utilization of a large set of personal skills; and 5) beliefs and values which included religious faith for the majority of participants as well as the importance of family and education. Another belief of the majority of the parents of the research participants was the importance of bearing hardship without complaint or grumbling--at least in front of the children.