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Rachel and Maddie's Great Depression Story

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FC: June, 1929: John, our neighbor, Samuel, and myself, along with our children, Jack, Rose, Jane, and Kevin

1: Current President, Herbert Hoover, campaigning and posing for the camera. 1929

2: Dear Journal, March 13, 1929 My name is Meredith. I currently live at 34 Downing Street, Apt. 10, in New York, New York. I live here with my family. My husband, John, works as an assembly line employee for Ford, while I sew and sell clothes to the local New Yorkers. We make good money, and we are able to support our four children, Jack, Rose, Jane, and Kevin. In addition to our jobs, we also gain income from the stock market. Of course, we buy stock from Ford, and in addition we buy radio, steel, and whatever else is doing well. Usually of course, they’re all doing well. We take out loans from the bank to pay the stock broker. Jack loves to buy stock, and I usually love to, too. It’s very simple. Most of the time you don’t even need money. You can walk on in and buy straight from the bank! It’s really great. I’d love for Jack or Kevin to work in a bank or with the stock market one day. What fabulous work they would be doing! Recently, John was offered a job at a local hardware store. The employer is offering him the manager position. This means that John will be making more than double the money he currently makes. We couldn’t be more proud! We already have a car, a refrigerator, a radio, and a clothes washer, so I’m not quite sure what we’ll do with the money just yet. Because of his new job and sudden ego boost, John says I can stop my sewing business and get rid of my sewing machine. For some reason though, I feel the need to hold onto it for a while, as though it might come in handy some day soon. Meredith

3: A picture of our youngest daughter, Jane, at age four. | Our two daughters, Rosie and Jane, pose for a family portrait.

4: A picture of myself, right before my wedding to John.

5: Dear Journal, June 6, 1929 Things are going great for John at his new job. He is making double the money he was making before, even when I had my sewing business. Living in the new apartment has made life at home so much better. John and I felt so cramped in our old apartment, and with all four kids it was definitely time for us to move. Our children are absolutely loving the new apartment. There are two huge bedrooms, one for Kevin and Jack and the other for Rose and Jane. Upstairs, John and I have our own bedroom, giving us our own private space. I am so proud of John, he’s making great money, enjoying his job, and he still has enough time to come home and eat dinner with us every night. The kids will be finishing out with school soon, and with all of the free time I’ve been having, I’m beginning to plan a family vacation! We’ve never been able to afford such a luxury, but with the economy booming and our stocks doing well, I figure, why not! With all this new money John is making, I have no worry in not being able to afford it. John and I recently decided to put the rest of our money into the stock market. A year ago, I probably would’ve felt this to be too risky. Today though, this has changed. We’ve already made so much money, we know if we invest it all, we can only benefit. The stock prices will only rise, and we can be wealthy! Mostly everyone we know has joined in to the stock market fad. Everyone realizes it’s the best way to make the most money quickly. We’re enjoying life more than ever! We have nothing to worry about, and everything to look forward to! Meredith

6: Men begging for jobs in the streets. | Me, with Rose and Jane on each shoulder. | Jane, Jack, and I waiting for John to come home, hopefully with money or food.

7: Dear Journal, February 28, 1930 The amount of change that has occurred in the past nine months has been unbelievable. Less than a year ago, we were at our peak: John had his job, school was almost done, and we had no financial problems to worry about, whatsoever. When the stock market crashed on October 29th, we hit a solid brick wall, and there was no breaking through. John lost his job, we had to move out of our nice new apartment, and we were forced to sell nearly everything we owned. Because we invested all of our money in the stock market, we lost everything. Now, we are struggling severely. I am so thankful I decided to keep my sewing machine, even though John told me to throw it away. I started my sewing business up again just a couple months ago, and have been able to get some food and money in return. Meanwhile, John goes to the docks every day looking for work, but he has not found much. It is almost impossible for men to find work these days. I make some money from my sewing business, but with the very small amount of money John brings in, on a good day, I fear we will soon lose the small and cramped apartment building that we have left. Thankfully, the kids are staying healthy and we have been able to keep warm through this winter, but if we can’t keep paying the heating bill it is going to a brutal rest of the winter to get through. These thoughts keep running through my head and I am trying to think positively, but it is so hard to when I see how much everyone else is struggling around us. Right now my focus is to keep a roof over our heads, and do as much as we can to stay healthy. I think the worst part is having to see all of the depression and destruction that months ago would have been unheard of. I walked through one of the Hoovervilles last week, and it was one of the saddest sights I have ever seen. I have to be thankful for what we have right now compared to some other families, but I have to say, I do miss the lifestyle we had. I pray that we will stay strong and make it through. We are just able to pay the bills every month with the money from selling our belongings and my and John’s work, but each month it becomes even more difficult. The children are beginning to worry, but we try to keep them positive. We can get through this, as a family. Meredith

8: Dear Journal, December 6, 1930 I feel as though everything we were hoping to not happen is all now happening at once. We are barely making any more money; John isn’t able to get work and my sewing business is failing. At the rate we are going, I don’t see us being able to pay the bills this month, and our heating and electrical are going to go out. John has mentioned sending the kids away apart from Jack, who wants to try and find work. I really didn’t want it to come to this because I can’t survive without my children, but I also want to keep them safe and healthy. Jane has a developed a cough, and if the heating goes out she will only get sicker. I am proud of Jack for wanting to find work, but he is so young and I don’t think he would be picked over a stronger and older man. I want to keep us all together for as long as possible, but right now John feels it a better idea for just him and I to figure things out and do whatever it takes to keep our kids safe. John does not want to admit to himself that we are starting to fall into a real dangerous time, but I have known it for a while now. Two of the kids next door just passed away, and I would not be able to bear it if it were my kids. Jack has started to spend a lot of time away from home. He is trying to scrape up whatever money he can find, by doing whatever work is available. Despite all our hard work, we are still flying our Hoover flags high. Our empty pockets and empty stomachs are a constant reminder of our situation. I don’t know how much longer I can put my kids through this. I feel awful. I feel as though I am not a good mother and do not have the means to support my children. I just talked to my parents the other day and they offered to let us come and stay with them in New Jersey, but I almost feel guilty for wanting to say yes to them. I keep thinking that one day we are going to wake up and all of this is going to end, but I know that’s no where close. John and I have decided that the best way to keep our kids safe, is to send them away for just a few months. They will live with my parents, in the hopes that they will have a better life, as John and I try to make more money, with less mouths to feed. This time will be the hardest thing we’ve had to go through, but I know it will work out for us whenever this horrible depression ends. Meredith

9: "Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt." - President Herbert Hoover | "In America today, we are nearer a final triumph over poverty than is in any other land." - President Herbert Hoover | John and Kevin, trying to not look hungry. | Jane, along with a neighbor.

10: Dear Jane, Oh how we miss you so much. Had we been smarter, had we known... Our last picture of Jane, healthy.

11: Dear Journal, March 9th, 1932 After Jane was sick with a constant cough, she developed pneumonia. Then last week, what I had feared most came. Jane died in her sleep. I had never experienced the death of a family member, so this hit me with the force of a thousand knives. If this depression had never come about, we could have been able to afford a doctor, or even prevent it by keeping her warm. She could have been healthy. I did not want to face the thought of any of my kids dying after seeing so many other parents lose their children. I walked in on John the other day, only to find him with his face buried in his pillow; it was the first time I had ever seen him cry. We had a small funeral for her, only our family and my parents attended. That night I cried myself to sleep. I try to keep a happy face for Jack, Rose, and Kevin, but it is so hard. I feel so sorry for any other parent who has had to deal with this, especially those suffering like us. Winter is almost over, meaning we won’t have to deal with this unbearable cold for much longer. We are so close to being evicted from our little apartment, but we are trying as hard as we can to make ends meet. FDR has just been elected president , and I pray to God this will bring us something to look forward to. I believe that FDR will be a much better president than Hoover, and after listening to him, I have hope that he will bring some change for us. Having to see the destruction and death in the Hoovervilles makes me sick to my stomach. Yesterday iwas walking through town and I saw young kids lying under newspapers, or "Hoover Blankets" to keep warm. There has been talk of his New Deal programs, which will attempt at providing jobs for men with no work. If John were able to get a job, that would be the first positive thing that has happened to us in what feels like forever. I almost want to fast forward a couple months to see what lies ahead for us. Meredith

12: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt | Our new president! I love this picture as it looks like there might be a glimmer of hope in his eyes.

13: Dear Journal, June 12, 1935 Finally, a new president has taken over. Hoover was doing nothing; he forced our family into a horrible place, where we felt there would be no hope. After Jane’s death, I was completely broken up. John and I didn’t know where to go or what to do to help our situation. I feared the worst for us and the rest of our children, but felt I couldn’t do anything to actually help them. As soon as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, or FDR, took over, our views changed. Suddenly, we are feeling hopeful again. President Roosevelt brings in new ideas, new hope, and most importantly, the New Deal. . This depression hasn’t been easy on any American, but President Roosevelt has definitely put a light at the end of the tunnel. If only he could have been elected when this had all began, im sure he could have prevented it or stopped it sooner. I am just starting to recover from Janes death, and I am cherishing my family more than I ever. John is still scarred from it, but he has been incredible throughout this whole awful experience. I really try to keep the kids active and busy. All of them cheered when FDR was elected, and that gives me real hope. I am also really hoping that John and Jack will be able to get jobs from the New Deal; Jack is very confident about. He tells me that all of his friends plan on going and looking for work. I had a laugh when Rose said she was going to work as well. I am so thankful that it is Summer, for we spend so much more time outside and I don't have to worry about the kids becoming ill. I am so proud of my family after e verything we have been through. All I can ask is for this to end soon. Meredith

14: Dear Journal, April 14, 193 Living today is not easy. In fact, I’d barely call it living. We are still living in the same apartment at 34 Downing Street, but it is not the same; the apartment is a bare place that I do not recognize as once being home. My children have no recollection of not having to worry about electricity, if food will be on the table, or where we live. The depression, although in some aspects has gotten better over the years, I still realize that we are no where near how we used to live. It truly affects me. We’ve had to sell nearly everything we own. We’ve sold everything from our bed frames to our wedding rings. John and I gave up our mattress to the children, while we sleep on old blankets I’d knit before the depression began. We sold chairs, our dinner table, and even clothing that we no longer fit. The depression even split our family apart. John and I were forced to send our children to live with my parents. It was hard to say goodbye. They’re puffy and red tear soaked faces showing no understanding as to why we were sending them away, but John and I knew it was for the best. With them gone, we’d have less mouths to feed, and I could leave the home to work, and we could set ourselves up with a better life for them to return to. I’m not sure if all that is how we “coped” with the depression. We did what we needed to do. We tried hard not to think too long about it. Although the children were usually more of a burden on us, they always brought us delight with their adorable giggles and games. Without them home, it motivated us more than ever to get things done, despite how tired we were. This depression has taken our jobs, money, and possessions, but I won’t let it take our family too. Meredith

15: "Our greatest task is to put people to work." - President Franklin Delano Roosevelt | John at the WPA job given to him from President Roosevelt.

16: Rose and Kevin with some of their friends. The happiest I've seen them in a long time. | Another picture of our wonderful president FDR.

17: Dear Journal, July 8, 1936 We’ve continued to deal with our situation in the depression. We were able to bring home Rosie and Kevin, and our house has never felt fuller or happier. The children truly bring such joy to our house. I feel they have a large role in our attitudes throughout this time. Work is never fun or easy, but coming home to two happy and appreciative children, is all that counts. With that said, I believe our family has gotten much closer. We take advantage of the time we get to spend together, and try to be as happy as possible. Looking back on how we used to live, today, our lives are much different. In the twenties we would’ve gone out to a restaurant at least once a month with the kids. In the last few years, getting to eat at home was quite the luxury. Today, we’re able to put more food on the table, but we would never be able to afford to spend a night out on the town, as we used to. Although I definitely feel my life has changed, I’d probably say that out of everyone, our eldest son, Jack, has had the most change. Jack was only ten in 1929 when the crash hit. He didn’t know what was going on or how it would effect him, but he has been so strong through it all. At just sixteen he decided to take a job to help the family. The job isn’t easy, and requires an immense amount of manual labor, but Jack puts the pain in the back of his mind, as the only thing he thinks about, is whether his family will be okay. Jane’s death truly affected all of us, but Jack the most. I believe Jack thought nothing bad could ever happen to us. He thought we’d somehow be protected, but unfortunately we needed protection, just like everyone else. Jack grew up during these last six years. The depression has made him more responsible and way more mature than most sixteen year old boys. Meredith

18: "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself." - President Franklin Delano Roosevelt | Jack and a few of his fellow workers working hard on the job. | More pictures of President Roosevelt. What would he have done without him?!

19: Dear Journal, May 16, 1937 Our family is doing much better. We have tried to stay close and give each other support, which has definitely helped, but, most of our help stems from President Roosevelt and the New Deal. It is amazing how FDR was able to step in and completely turn around all that Hoover had done, or rather, had not done. It seemed as though FDR could act as a leader because he seemed to have a voice that could both comfort, and instill hope in Americans. His programs have helped almost everyone in some way. Our family has tremendously benefited from the programs. I believe that Americans, both today and tomorrow, will be forever grateful for a president like FDR. He not only created programs to help with unemployment, social security, and retirement, but also used these programs to bring hope back into citizens. Without the New Deal programs and FDR, the country might might never have been the same. Specifically, the Works Progress Administration, or WPA, the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, and the Social Security Act, or SSA helped our family. John was able to get a job through the WPA. The labor is hard, as the men must construct buildings, but it pays well and gives Americans all over the country an income. In addition, Jack was also able to get a job through the CCC. The CCC was extremely helpful to Americans as it gave jobs to young adults, such as Jack, at the age of only sixteen. This program may have been the best program made by Roosevelt, as it is clear he was thinking about the people and how they could benefit the most. Lastly, the SSA helped my parents, and John’s parents with their retirement. The program helps the elderly get out of jobs they have, to allow room for younger people to acquire jobs. Although it seems as though the senior citizens are getting kicked out, they aren’t. The seniors will continue to be paid by the government so they can have an income, without having to work. The New Deal programs have helped enormously to get us, and the rest of the country into a good place. I don’t believe I could thank President Roosevelt enough times to truly have him understand how appreciative I am. Yes, things are still bad, but they’re getting better, and one day the depression will be no more. Meredith

20: "I do not look upon these United States as a finished product. We are still in the making." - President Roosevelt | Our family and a few friends, today. We're happier, but unsure about the future.

21: Dear Journal, August 17, 1938 I can see the depression coming to an end in the near future. Between John’s and Jack’s jobs, and the New Deal programs, I feel we will be back on our feet, along with the rest of America, very shortly. But, as much as FDR has helped America with its overall situation, I feel as though there are some things he cannot fix. For example, today, Americans fear the banks. In my opinion, I don’t think we will ever be able to trust them again. Yes, I understand it was mostly our fault as we were careless and greedy, but we are finally becoming successful again. It has taken us nine years to get to this point, and still we are not where we used to be. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to trust the bank that did this to me, my family, and my country. FDR has done a great amount of work in bettering the economy, but he does not have the power to change the mutual feeling amongst the American people. We are just starting to feel as we did pre depression: happy, healthy, and wealthy, and now that we’re here, we don’t want to lose it all again. We want to prevent another crash, thus most Americans, including myself, feel it’d be best to eliminate banks altogether. We have learned, lost, and loved so much in these past nine years.This was one of the worst things I have ever had to fight through, and yet, I kept going. And, I will keep going, because we are not out into the clear yet. My children have not led the lives I imagined they would lead. They have had to worry more than a child should. Jack, my eldest, lost his childhood altogether to help save his family. John and I never imagined our lives to be like this. We have lost everything, including our daughter Jane. FDR truly saved us from the end, but there are so many things FDR had no power over to save. Yes, the New Deal programs saved us and gave us relief. We were able to make money, pay bills, and are working to getting back to normal, although after this, I’m not sure what was normal, will ever be the same. Meredith

22: Citations Photograph. Web. . Photograph. Web. . Photograph. Web. . Photograph. Web. . The 1920s Skyscraper of the Future. Photograph. The New York Times. The New York Times, 26 Mar. 2009. Web. 21 Mar. 2012. . Photograph. Web. . Photograph. Web. .

23: Citations Photograph. Web. . Photograph. 20 Mar. 2012. Web. Photograph. Web. 21 Mar. 2012. Photograph. Web. 21 Mar. 2012. Photograph. Web. 21 Mar. 2012. Photograph. Web. 21 Mar. 2012. Photograph. Web. 21 Mar. 2012.

24: Citations Photograph. Web. 21 Mar. 2012.

26: Mother | Grandfather | Grandmother | Great Grandmother | Great Grandmother | Great Grandfather | Great Grandfather

27: Father | Grandfather | Grandmother | Great Grandmother | Great Grandmother | Great Grandfather | Great Grandfather

29: Great Grandparents | Parents | Grandparents

31: Our Ancestors

32: Parents | Grandparents | Great Grandparents

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Mollie forman
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About This Mixbook

  • Title: Rachel and Maddie's Great Depression Story
  • The story of a family and their struggles throughout The Great Depression.
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  • Published: almost 7 years ago