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Life of Children in the 1930s
Transcript of Life of Children in the 1930s
Role in Family
Rules and Discipline
Games, Hobbies, and Books
The 1930's were the years of the Great Depression in America. Children and their families were gravely impacted; millions living in poverty - mainly in the southern states.
Many families lived in extremely poor household conditions and had very little to eat, let alone money to spare for entertainment.
Racism was higher than ever before.
Around 200,000 children and adolescents wandered the streets and rode the rails.
When the stock markets crashed in 1929, unemployment was less than 3 million. It climbed all the way to over 12 million by 1932.
While mothers stayed at home, fathers made very little money to provide for the family and it often resulted in children being forced to drop out of school and take on a job to contribute to the family income (lower-class).
Many children from a very young age started doing chores around the house and helped with work on their farms.
As children grew up they soon had a sense of what was going on with the economy and they searched for waged jobs as soon as they were able. Child labor laws had not been in full force at the time and so it was very common to send children to work out in fields and in the factories. They knew how troubling times were and so they worked and gave all their earnings to their mother or father in hopes of helping in any way possible.
Unfortunately, the little wages averaging around 1-2$ a week (if they were lucky enough to get a job) were of little significance and children and teenagers were, and often felt they were, a burden to the family.
As a result, many teens ran away from their homes to start their own lives, hoping that would help their families. Families ended up breaking apart and many children and teens were left orphaned and homeless.
During this time, food was scarce for a lot of families, and many children suffered from malnutrition and some starved to death.
Lower-class families could not afford much for their children, most of their clothes were dirty rags, they went barefoot, and they couldn't even bathe more than once a month. Medical care was too expensive.
If you were middle-class, boys wore t-shirts with overalls and maybe had a pair of trousers and a collared shirt. Girls wore blouses and plain dresses. Both boys and girls would have a pair of shoes, a nicer outfit for special occasions, and a jacket for the winter.
If you were a higher-class child, you had nothing to
worry about and were pampered from head to toe.
If you weren't in the higher-class during the depression, you were lucky if you even went to school.
Education in the 1930s was at a downfall - schools were overpopulated, underfunded, and there were less and less teachers. An estimated 20,000 schools in America closed, the ones in rural areas very scarce. There were many barriers between class, race, and age and it caused many problems as they all attended in one room. Racism was so bad that a lot of schools were segregated - if black children could even afford to attend.
Even if children and teens wanted to attend school, there were many obstacles in their way.
Transportation was a big one - there were no buses or cars so children had to walk. A lot of the time, the nearest highschool was over 20miles away. If you could get to the school, there was still the problem of money. Many parents could not afford to buy the necessary study books for their teens and so they couldn't attend highschool or go off to college. The need for a lunch and proper "school dress" also affected if children could attend or not.
All this resulted in poor or no education for lower and some middle class children; it was thought of as a luxury and wasn't deemed a necessity.
Times were so tough that there was simply no time for whiny, disobeying children.
When children neglected the rules or misbehaved, discipline was harsh and quick, using fear of physical consequences to keep them in line.
At home, children had to respect a certain bedtime, where they could and could not play, and get their daily chores done. Children were to show respect towards their parents.
In school, if you stepped out of line or got into fights with other children, you would usually have to hold out your hands to the teacher who slapped you with a ruler. Worst case was getting spanked with a broom, paddle, or belt, and of course the consequences would continue at home.
Children would quickly learn to self-regulate as they became older and realized their parents didn't need any more trouble than they already had. Although, some parents (like Atticus) learned how to positively discipline their children - by having a civilized conversation and treating their kids like adults.
Back in the 1930s, the greatest entertainment most children could get was from their own imagination. Kids used whatever was just laying around and created their own scenarios, games, and toys. Girls made their own rag dolls, children played schoolyard games like jump rope, tag, and "Ring Around The Rosie"; children generally spent most of their free time playing outside and exploring.
Some kids had a ball of some sort, some may have had an old rusty bicycle, and for the winter, they might have had a wooden sled. A lot of children also had puzzles and board games, and if you were lucky, your father may have built you a treehouse.
The average child didn't have much, but if your parents were wealthy then you definitely weren't short on toys. Wealthy kids had all the nice, shiny things - porcelain dolls, tea sets, rocking horses, roller-skates, sport equipment, and the list goes on.
Entertainment was out of the question for the average family, but a lot of families did have a radio so kids could listen to the morning cartoons, and if you're lucky enough to have one, you could watch them on television (Popeye the Sailor and Mickey Mouse were popular).
Popular children's books back then included the Nancy Drew Mysteries, Marry Poppins, and J.R.R Tolkien's the Hobbit.