Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2021/Spring/105/Section 88/Mary Hines

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Mary Hines
BornUnknown date
Monroe County, Alabama
DiedUnknown
NationalityAmerican
Other namesNone
EthnicityBlack
OccupationTeacher
SpouseDock Hines

Overview[edit | edit source]

Mary Hines is the mother of nine children, four of whom have passed away. Hines taught as a school teacher for three years before the Great Depression until becoming unemployed ultimately resorting to working in the fields. Hines, all while raising her kids, had to pick cotton and fruits while her husband was blind and unemployed. Later on, her four daughters became school teachers bringing in sufficient income to the household. [1]

Biography[edit | edit source]

Childhood[edit | edit source]

Daughter of a tenant farmer picking tomatoes

Mary Hines was the daughter of a former slave, she grew up as a tenant farmer moving to various locations throughout Alabama. When she became old enough, her parents allowed for her to start her education on learning to become a teacher at the Colored Industrial Seminary at Snow hill. [1]

Adult Life and Career[edit | edit source]

Mary Hines married Dock Hines, a coworker at the school where she was working at the time. [1] Mary left teaching after they married and moved to Camden, where he worked for 25 years as a schoolteacher. After having their first three children together, times started to get tougher as Dock wasn’t making enough to support the family. He quit his school job and worked at a sawmill for 14 years until the Great Depression started. By this time, Mary had lost four of her children and her husband began losing his eyesight resulting in the job search to be extremely difficult. In order to keep her family from starving, Mary would take her kids with her to the field to pick cotton and strawberries from morning to night. She managed to make a means until her daughters came of age to join the workforce as teachers. In the midst of the Great Depression, Dock’s former boss from the sawmill heard of his condition and offered to take him to the hospital get an operation on his eye to remove the cataract. This operation allowed him to partially see out of one eye, however, the other eye soon became covered with a cataract. Due to her four daughters being professionally employed, bringing in around $30 a month, they are able to pay the mortgage on their home which they lost during the depression.

Historical Context[edit | edit source]

African American Unemployment and Education in the 1930s[edit | edit source]

Teacher and two children reading a textbook in a segregated school.

Many African Americans were put at a greater disadvantage when it came to the job market. During the 1930s African American unemployment was at its highest, hitting its peak in 1932 at around 50% [2] In the South especially, the unemployment for African Americans were nearly double that of the white population [2]. Similar to the decline in the economy, the Great Depression presented a great challenge for students, teachers, and schools. Public schools were faced with budget cutbacks making it much harder for their doors to stay open. This included reducing school hours, cutting courses, and even getting rid of cafeterias. Due to the difficult labor market, teenagers ended up returning to school in addition to younger people staying in school longer. Although public schools were struggling, during the 1930’s segregated schools were in an even worse condition. Under the law, “separate but equal” separate schools were expected to have equal resources; however, this was not the case. Supplies, buildings, and even care of students were always unequal. Due to the fact that less money was given to schools for black children, teachers suffered from lower salaries as well as lack of training facilities. These schools were given discarded books from white schools and were expected to keep up with the lower-quality facilities they were housed in. Education quickly became a luxury to those who were able to afford it. [3]

Healthcare during the Great Depression[edit | edit source]

The Great Depression was a time of hardship for all Americans as the economy fell deeply into a recession where most people weren’t able to sufficiently provide a means for themselves. While unemployment continued to rise to a high of about 23% [4] there was a crisis within the healthcare system. Due to the severe economic downfall of the country, this resulted in a domino effect across the healthcare system. Many people were not able to afford basic healthcare which resulted in a lack of insurance policies for healthcare coverage. This then resulted in hospitals throughout the country being forced to close down [5] . Communities of African Americans in the South were unable to receive adequate health care and were ignored in terms of accessing proper resources. African Americans were already placed at a disadvantage with high mortality rates due to the lack of medical attention by local white physicians. This in part was due to the Jim Crow laws embedded within medical establishments. The Great Depression's early years, from 1929 to1932, saw a fall in household income and a change in social classes to lower levels. For example, those who were “poor” in 1929 were shifted to be in the “chronic poor” bracket. People who fell in this bracket only paid for 24% of physician’s calls whereas those who were considered “comfortable” paid for 42%. Those who were “chronic poor” ended up receiving more hospital service, of which 92% was free as businesses offered free healthcare services throughout different parts of the country [6] Families who had experienced a significant loss of income during the depression received more hospital care, which was mostly free, than those who had a similar economic status but had not experienced a loss of income. [6]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Bowman, interview.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Klein, "Last Hired, First Fired: How the Great Depression Affected African Americans.”
  3. Koning,"Education in the 1930's."
  4. Crafts, Nicholas and Fearon, Peter, "Lessons from the 1930s Depression."
  5. Butzer, Bryce, "Born from the Great Depression, a Continued Promise to Protect the Sustainability of Health Care Costs."
  6. 6.0 6.1 Perrott, Sydenstricker, and Collins, "Medical Care during the Depression: A Preliminary Report upon a Survey of Wage-Earning Families in Seven Large Cities."

References[edit | edit source]