Monday, June 19, 2006

"Heartland Security and the FSA"

Response #7

Image #1 Mother and 9 Children, 1939
This photograph of a Tennessee mother with three of her nine children photographed by Carl Mydans must have struck a particularly powerful cord with Americans. The woman, the symbolic heart of the family, looks shattered. Words that come to mind when I imagine the troubled woman -- disarray, shame, disgrace. Her clothes are very tattered and torn to pieces. Even her burlap potato sack skirt has holes from wear and tear. Her hair is unkempt and her feet are dirty. The sun shadows her facial expression but what we do see is a blank, hopeless look. Surrounding her are her children who are similarly disheveled. The boy to her left has almost the exact same expression, the sun shading a lower portion of his face. This mother who is struggling to meet her own needs can barely function as the nurturing caretaker of her nine children. Child labor criticism spanned both urban and rural areas nationwide.

Image #2 The Okies - Children
These boys displaced by the fury of the Dust Bowl are finding solace in the shade of a barn. They could even be hiding to get a break from a long day of work. They are both dressed in their matching farm bibs. Their faces and fingers blackened by the sun mirror their burnt out sad eyes. The standard blonde haired, blue-eyed Anglo-Saxon features of these two boys is important to this picture. It is the ideal American look. And this is a very less than ideal situation for these two boys to be in. Clearly these boys are dreaming of the good old days -- sketching flowers from their memories. The country, likewise, quite clearly remembers the days of the roaring 20's - come and gone. The need for education raises questions of child labor reform.
Innocent America corrupted by the consequences of hasty Westward Expansion.

Image #3 Yuba City Agricultural Farm Workers Community
I found this image to be particularly interesting. At first glance, the photo looks like the photographer came across this sample set of Okie children organically. But in context I think this photo was taken with outside interests in mind. First of all, the girls in this picture outnumber the boys by more than half. In addition, the one boy shown in the foreground is dark skinned. While the other white children are dressed in their Sunday best, the Mexican child twiddles his thumbs in the pockets of his jean overalls. The clean-cut white boy stands behind the rest with a look of satisfaction and ease. The racial and ethnic divide prevails.

Tiny buildings near the top of the picture are probably the Farm Security Administration camps which were set up in California for displaced farmers. I find these kids suspiciously clean and well-dressed. Compared to the previous batch of images portraying filthy unkempt Okie children, the inconsistency is clear. Taken after a school day, I see a focus on gender and ethnic equality. Girls and one minority were being educated just as the white boys were. This was probably not the case. The photographer also seemed to find the only healthy looking tree in the barren country to round the children under. The dry soil tells the true story.

Course Themes

1. Power and Participation
- Women's Suffrage : Women gained the great power and influence during this period. Woodrow Wilson felt that granting women's rights was a "war measure" and in 1919 Congress passed the 19th Ammendment granting women the right to vote. Jane Addams established the Hull House in Chicago, furthering the Settlement.

2. Visions and Collisons- Labor Reform: The visions of big businessmen and daily laborers met one another for the first time in this period of American history. Labor unions gained power such as the American Federation of Labor and Industrial Workers of the World. Big business discovered the benefit of mediating with unions to avoid worker revolt. The greatest reform was the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938. This eliminated "labor conditions detrimental to the maintenance of the minimum standards of living necessary for health, efficiency and well-being of workers," established a 40 hour work week, minimum wage and outlawed child labor. This was a huge win for Progressive policy.

3. People and Land- The Dust Bowl: The those who took a chance on the American dream to go West and prosper were not prepared for the grim outcome of the Dust Bowl. Drought, heat, erosion, dust and wind contributed to the horrifying conditions of the Dust Bowl. This was a period when Americans learned the importance of taking care of the land and preserving it for the future.

Spartacus Educational.
The Journal of San Diego History.


At 5:40 PM, Blogger abby said...

Comment #1
In Megan’s Web Assignment #7 she said that she believed that, the “photograph of a Tennessee mother with three of her nine children photographed by Carl Mydans must have struck a particularly powerful cord with Americans.” I agree with this because I said in my blog, “I always am very affected by pictures of small children living in horrible conditions.” I believe that these pictures did affect americans because it is a women and her family living in horrible conditions. The reason that Americans really thought the Great Depression was horrible was because of pictures like this one. For the first time white women and children are being seen living in squalor. The nation was in serious economic trouble and everyone was being affected. I agree with Megan’s Web Assignment #7 and think that these pictures really capture a piece of the country at the time.


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