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

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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time and strength available to do the canning,” the Farm Journal warned women. “One doctor's bill would pay the grocer for many tins of fruits and vegetables.”27 Girls also helped process Iowa's home-grown food. The 27 members of the League of the 4-Leaf Clover, the state's oldest club, canned 3,156 quarts in one year's time. Mildred Cave canned 1,276 quarts alone, winning a gold watch for the best canning record in the state, with 110 of her quarts donated to the Associated Charities of

in Des Moines with the following petition: “We, the undersigned, indorse the Farmers' Holiday movement as launched at Des Moines, May 3, 1932, and pledge ourselves to the whole hearted support of the Farmers' Holiday program to withhold our products from the market for whatever period of time may be elected by the officers of the F.H.A. or until we have obtained production costs.” Historian Robert Goldston describes rather succinctly the culmination of this holiday movement: “That summer of 1932,

farm situation as it is. Other writers maintained their long-standing trust in Hoover. Ollie Graham saw the events and the candidates quite differently. “Great, yes, and courageous is the leader of our great nation,” Graham's letter began. “He had no time to whimper and answer back those yapping wolves on the outer edge of the circle who were seeking to devour him. My faith in President Hoover has never wavered since I cast my vote for him in 1928.” Immediately after the Hoover speech,

and a half miles through the rain and the mud (because Lincoln was too weak to crank his old pickup truck) to vote for “their president.” When Mrs. Brown arrived at the voting booth, wet and muddy to her knees, she simply expressed the couple's determination: “We did it for Hoover.”45 The night before the 1932 election, John Wilkinson's father decided to throw another oyster-stew party for Herbert Hoover just as he had for the 1928 election night. As a small-town banker, Rufus Wilkinson had

to be in the best interest of all. We need many farms in the hands of many; not a few large farms in the hands of a few.”41 The more recent agricultural figures, however, are presenting another image further removed from the family farm. In 1980, the number of Iowa's rural residents reached 1,485,545 but by 2000 the number stood at 1,362,732 and in 2008 at 1,310,507. To translate, Iowa now has 175,038 fewer rural residents within the last 28 years, while urban residents have increased from

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