Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2013/Spring/Callie Hines

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This page is connected with English 105 at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill - Federal Writers' Project - Life Histories

Widow sitting on her bed in her small home in McIntosh County, Oklahoma

Overview:[edit | edit source]

Callie Hines was a white mother and widow who was financially unstable and uneducated throughout her entire life. After the death of her husband, Hines struggled to support her family with shelter and food. Hines was interviewed by members of the Federal Writers’ Project, Christine Taylor and Frank McDonalds, on December 20, 1938.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Callie Hines (1893-?) was born and raised into a low-income family in Wilson County, NC. Hine’s father was a farmer and her mother passed away when Hines was in fourth grade. Due to her mother’s death, Hines had to drop out of school and work in order to help support her family. In 1911 at the age of 18, Hines joined the Primitive Baptist and went to church every Sunday. The Primitive Baptist was a church for individuals who were thought of as the original Baptist of the 1800’s. When visiting Greene County, NC, where her parents were raised, Callie met Mr. Hines whom she married on July 27, 1913 at the age of 20. Eventually, Mr. and Mrs. Hines started a family. They had 5 kids: Zeb who passed away as a baby, Grace, Wayland, Lester, and John. To support the family, Mrs. Hines cooked while Mr. Hines worked as a day laborer and eventually a farmer. The money Mr. Hines made was not much for the family to live off of since he spent most of it on trading guns and dogs. Later, Hines’s husband passed away with heart dropsy after being sick for a year. After his death, Hines moved to Snow Hill, NC, and worked various jobs in order to support her family. Hines had to walk 5 miles to work every day. At work, Hines worked from a chair that she would have to stand on in order to do her job. Her boss, nervous that Hines would fall from the chair and injure herself, suggested Hines quit. Hines worked in tobacco fields for a while, but eventually quit and applied for Aid to Dependent Children, which she received. Hine’s family lived in a dilapidated house and had little decent clothing. They could not attend church because they could not afford the appropriate attire for it. Hines had high blood pressure as she got older, but she did not let that affect the care she provided for her children.[1]

Social Issues[edit | edit source]

Economic Struggle of farmers during the Great Depression:[edit | edit source]

The Great Depression, starting in the 1930’s, was a worldwide economic struggle for farmers. The Great depression had a lasting effect on the agriculture industry, which altered the lives of many families dependent on farming. According to Bishop, “Farmers’ income declined steadily during the decade because of overproduction of cash crops, falling crop prices, rising farm costs, poor conservation practices, and other problems.”[2] Machines also replaced farmers as a more efficient technique for agricultural purposes. With the decline of income for these farmers, many families struggled to stay afloat and needed an alternative source to obtain their needs. Private charities and social services were created to assist families in need of help and became the backup source for many struggling families.[3] Callie Hines exemplified this dreadful poverty. Her husband, a farmer, could not support his family due to insufficient pay. After his death, Hines had no income and depended on welfare to feed, shelter, and clothe her children.

Effect of Gender Roles on labor during the Great Depression:[edit | edit source]

During the Great Depression, men and women were treated differently when it came down to job loss and roles in the family. According to Ware, “Traditional gender roles assumed that all women were members of families with a male breadwinner at its head, but that description did not always match reality.”[4] Women that had no husband such as Hines had to take on the role of men and find jobs to support their family. This was difficult for women because they did not have a recognized role in the workforce during the 1930’s. If women were lucky enough to find jobs, they were quickly replaced by men also searching for jobs. Public employment felt women did not belong in the workforce and showed it (Abelson 4). Hines was a widow that struggled to be her own “breadwinner”. In addition to worrying about cooking, cleaning and caring for her kids, Hines also had to worry about working. Hine’s role as a housekeeper and breadwinner destroyed the idea of a typical women during the 1930’s.

Historical Production issues:[edit | edit source]

Authenticity and Dialectal issues involved with the Federal Writers’ Project:[edit | edit source]

The only source of Hine’s life was an interview that was done on December 20, 1938 by members of the Federal Writers Project. The Federal Writers Project was a part of the New Deal during the Great Depression where many people were hired as writers to interview thousands of American’s life histories. According to Dittman, “The products of the Federal Writers' Project (FWP) were to be used to reassure an anxious public that the programs of Roosevelt's New Deal could provide security and resolve the American political, economic, and ideological conflicts of the 1930s."[5] However, the products of this project led to many issues with authenticity and dialect. Interviews were recorded by written notes from the writers and then passed through extreme revising. Language was altered, pieces of information were deleted, and stereotypes were placed in the interviews during revisions. Higher officials in the Federal Writers’ Project asserted that the people interviewed be portrayed in a way that was representative of how they were perceived in this time period.[6] The description of Hine’s living environment and presentation was very extreme and the dialect displayed for Hines was southern, uneducated, and not always understandable. Hine’s image displayed by the interviewer may be true but with all the revisions this interview may have endured, it is important to be cautious about what is authentic and what is not.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Hines, Callie. “Callie Hines.” Federal Writers Project. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: Southern Collection. Web.
  2. Bishop, RoAnn. “Agriculture in North Carolina during the Great Depression: Difficult Days on Tar Heel Farms.” http://ncpedia.org. State Library of North Carolina: Government and Heritage Library, 2010. Web. 6 April. 2013. p.1.
  3. Abelson, Elaine. S. “Women who have no men to work for the: Gender and homelessness in the great depression 1930-1934.” Feminist Studies, 29.1(2003): 104-127, 203. Proquest. Web. 6 April. 2013.
  4. Ware, Susan. “Woman and the Great Depression.” http://www.gilderlehrman.org. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, 2009-2013. Web. 6 April. 2013.
  5. Dittman, Michael. “The Federal Writers' Project and the Creation of Hegemony.” 49th Parallel: An Interdisciplinary Journal of North American Studies 2 (1999): 1. 49th Parallel. Web. 6 April. 2013.
  6. Carmody, Todd. “Sterling Brown and the Dialect of New Deal Optimism.” Callaloo 33.3 (2010): 820-840. Project Muse. Web. 6 April. 2013.