Federal Writers' Project - Life Histories/2013/Fall/Eva Truelove
This page is connected with English 105 at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill - Federal Writers' Project - Life Histories
Eva Truelove was born on a farm in Harnett County, North Carolina in 1912. She was a white waitress living in Raleigh, NC. She was interviewed by Mary A. Hicks under the Federal Writers' Project in 1939.
Until she was fourteen years old, Truelove worked on the family’s farm in Harnett County with her siblings. Her family was traditionally Democrat, and her father came from a rich, slave-holding farming family. Her family’s diet consisted mostly of beans, peas, and potatoes, and, as a result, many in her family suffered from pellagra. Her mother died from pellagra in 1927 and was buried at Missionary Baptist Church. Despite doctor’s orders, they could not afford to change their diet. Her father owned 100 acres of land until he lost it due to poor management and living beyond his means. After losing the land, Truelove and her family moved to a dairy farm for two years. Her father then secured a job at Camp Polk prison farm. Only one of her siblings finished high school, most having quit between fourth and seventh grade.
At the time she was interviewed under the Federal Writers’ Project, Truelove worked eight to ten hours per day as a waitress in Raleigh, North Carolina and earned $6 per week. She paid $2 per week rent to live with her sister Elsie, Elsie’s husband, and their baby in their apartment. Even though she had dated a variety of men, from a radio announcer to a famous bootlegger, she was unmarried. She and her sisters Elsie and Rosa were members of the Missionary Baptist Church.
During the nationwide economic decline of the Great Depression, both men and women suffered from the decrease in family income. However, the dominantly male professions suffered more than typically female professions like teachers, nurses, office work, and domestic work. “The stock market crash of 1929 damaged heavy industries like steel, rubber, and chemicals, which were dominated by male workers, much more than light industries like manufacturing, where most female industrial workers were employed." As a result, many women were the main supporters of the family. The economic climate allowed for the beginnings of the feminist movement. Many poor families were large because they needed the help to tend to a farm. However, large families were difficult to support during the Depression. As a result, ideas of contraception and abortion became more popular. Truelove expressed approval for the use of birth control as a method of keeping family size small, however she condemned abortion after the first month as immoral.
Schools in North Carolina fared better than those in most other states during the Great Depression. No schools shut down during that period, and most children were able to achieve at least a primary education. The lack of government funding to public schools led to a consolidation of the schools. Large one-room schoolhouses with one teacher were common. Rural children tended to struggle to attend school moreso than children living in urban areas. “These country children might have to miss school at planting time, at hoeing time, and at harvest. Families usually needed every member working in order to survive." Also, the rural children had to travel farther to reach the school than urban children. Most of Truelove’s siblings reached the fourth grade, but only one made it past seventh grade. Truelove expressed interest in wanting to further her education, but circumstances and a lack of financial resources prevented her from doing so.
Federal Writers' Project
The Federal Writers Project was part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) under President Roosevelt’s New Deal Program. The project enlisted “white collar” professionals like writers and academics to document the lives of Americans from backgrounds typically overlooked in historical records. These backgrounds often included African Americans, people from rural areas, and people from a lower socio-economic class. The stories of these people were documented in many different styles, often depending on the background of the author. The writing style of a novelist differed greatly from that of a journalist. In addition to the impact of writing style on the impression of the subject, many of the writers chose to write in the vernacular of the person they were interviewing. For example, the use of Southern vernacular, sentence structure, and spelling to convey a Southern accent is seen when Truelove is quoted saying “I don’t like being a waitress, but there just ain’t nothing else for me to do unless I git married” . The vernacular can give an inaccurate or biased impression of the interviewee. Also, the interviewer’s questions were left out of from the final draft, which prevents the audience from seeing the full picture or how the interviewer may have directed the conversation.
- “The Depression and World War II (1930-1945).” National Women’s History Museum. National Women’s History Museum, 2007. Web. 20 Nov 2013. < http://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/industry/12.htm>.
- Scharf, Lois. To Work and To Wed. New York: Praeger, 1980. Print.
- Hobbs, Margaret. “Equality and Difference: Feminism and the Defence of Women Workers during the Great Depression.” Labor/Le Travail 32 (1993): 201-223. Web. JSTOR. 20 Nov 2013. < http://www.jstor.org/stable/25143731?seq=13>.
- Truelove, Eva. “A Waitress.” Federal Writers’ Project. 9 Jan 1939. Print.
- Davis, Anita Price. “Public Schools in the Great Depression.” NCPedia. NCPedia, 1 Jan 2010. Web. 20 Nov 2013. < http://ncpedia.org/public-schools-great-depression>.
- “WPA Life Histories About the Federal Writers' Project.” American Life Histories. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 20 Nov 2013. < http://lcweb2.loc.gov/wpaintro/wpafwp.html>.