Women

Interview with Mary and Clyde Brewer, August 10, 1978, Part of Frontier Nursing Service Oral History Project (excerpt). [This is an audio file only.]

Women’s roles in the 1930s were typically relegated to those of housewife and mother. So many of the New Deal programs were not initially directed at them (although Eleanor Roosevelt did her best to change this). Most of the women were employed through the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Even so, in its peak year only 13.5 percent of those in the WPA program were women.

Early in the program, women were given lower paying jobs such as sewing, bookbinding, caring for the elderly, and working in school lunch programs and nursery schools. Ellen Sullivan Woodward, as the Director of the Women’s and Professional Projects for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), gave library projects a high priority. Through the Library Project, librarians were sent into rural communities, by horseback if necessary, to provide library services where none had ever existed before. Woodward also created work programs for unemployed actors, writers, musicians, and artists.

Another WPA program, the National Youth Administration (NYA), provided opportunities for young girls. NYA offered educational opportunities, work training, and financial aid for youth between ages sixteen and twenty-five.

Swain, Martha H., "Women’s Work Relief in the Great Depression." Mississippi History Now. http://mshistory.k12.ms.us/articles/251/womens-work-relief-in-the-great-depression

, “A New Deal in Libraries: Federal Relief Work and Library Service.” Libraries & Culture, Vol. 30, No. 3 (Summer, 1995), pp. 265-283.