The Depression Dilemmas of Rural Iowa, 1929-1933

The Depression Dilemmas of Rural Iowa, 1929-1933

Lisa L. Ossian

Language: English

Pages: 254

ISBN: 0826219462

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The Depression Dilemmas of Rural Iowa, 1929-1933

Lisa L. Ossian

Language: English

Pages: 254

ISBN: 0826219462

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


 
To many rural Iowans, the stock market crash on New York’s Wall Street in October 1929 seemed an event far removed from their lives, even though the effects of the crash became all too real throughout the state. From 1929 to 1933, the enthusiastic faith that most Iowans had in Iowan President Herbert Hoover was transformed into bitter disappointment with the federal government. As a result, Iowans directly questioned their leadership at the state, county, and community levels with a renewed spirit to salvage family farms, demonstrating the uniqueness of Iowa’s rural life. 
Beginning with an overview of the state during 1929, Lisa L. Ossian describes Iowa’s particular rural dilemmas, evoking, through anecdotes and examples, the economic, nutritional, familial, cultural, industrial, criminal, legal, and political challenges that engaged the people of the state. The following chapters analyze life during the early Depression:  new prescriptions for children’s health, creative housekeeping to stretch resources, the use of farm “playlets” to communicate new information creatively and memorably, the demise of the soft coal mining industry, increased violence within the landscape, and the movement to end Prohibition.
The challenges faced in the early Great Depression years between 1929 and 1933 encouraged resourcefulness rather than passivity, creativity rather than resignation, and community rather than hopelessness. Of particular interest is the role of women within the rural landscape, as much of the increased daily work fell to farm women during this time. While the women addressed this work simply as “making do,” Ossian shows that their resourcefulness entailed complex planning essential for families’ emotional and physical health.
Ossian’s epilogue takes readers into the Iowa of today, dominated by industrial agriculture, and asks the reader to consider if this model that stemmed from Depression-era innovation is sustainable. Her rich rural history not only helps readers understand the particular forces at work that shaped the social and physical landscape of the past but also traces how these landscapes have continued in various forms for almost eighty years into this century.

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Coquillette, Hoover, the Banks, the Depression: The Iowa Experience, 1930—1933, 7. See also Robert Goldston, The Great Depression: The United States in the Thirties, 66; and Goronwy Rees, The Great Slump: Capitalism in Crisis, 1929—1933, 275. 13. Farm Journal, September 1932, 6, and November 1932, 4. Political historian Donald Ritchie explains the significance of these straw polls in his book Electing FDR,: “Though the Des Moines Register strongly supported Hoover and the statewide Republican

Wolf, ed., Voices from the Land, 17 and 18. 2. Iowa State Department of Agriculture, Iowa Year Book of Agriculture, 1933, 11. 3. David S. Faldet, Oneota Flow The Upper Iowa River & Its People, 145. 4. Richard Willis, Long Gone, 21. 5. Iowa Year Book of Agriculture, 1933, 22 and 23. 6. Adam Cohen, Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days that Created Modern America, 16. 7. Wolf, Voices from the Land, 29 and 30. 8. Wolf, More Voices from the Land, 10 and 11. 9. Coal Age,

least of his qualifications for the big job he starts Monday.”7 Hoover's personal trials also exemplified the American success story when he had been tragically orphaned at age 9 but rose to the presidency by 54. “While such things are possible,” as another of Darling's cartoon captions explained, “there is nothing very wrong with our country.” Or, as yet another Des Moines Register's headline simply stated, “Iowa Boy Makes Good.”8 Thousands of Iowa's schoolchildren gathered around radios on

national suicide rate by May 1930 at 18 out of 100,000 people. Sacramento, California, carried the highest rate at 52.8; Des Moines remained lower than the national average at 14.5 per 100,000. Regional newspapers took notice and tried to explain the rising numbers of deaths such as the Tribune simply suggesting the cause as “tremendous assaults of worry.” In a Register editorial in the late summer of 1930, the editors asked, “Why Suicide?” and suggested that money difficulties seemed to be only

another solution, Iowa farmers wanted a policy of deflation, termed “Honest Dollar,” but the Hawley-Smoot Tariff of 1930 and increasing mortgage foreclosures threatened all future farm prosperity. The resounding agricultural dilemmas remained: production, labor, acreage, debt. Would farmers ever get ahead financially? Iowa's farmers particularly suffered from the previous decadelong agricultural depression as they had accumulated twice the farm mortgage debt of any other state with one-third of

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