Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2013/Spring/Earl M. Lasker

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

Johns Hopkins Hospital

Overview[edit | edit source]

Earl M. Lasker was married to Ada Moses during the Great Depression; due to lack of education and inadequate medical care they experienced hardships when Moses contracted a cancer-like disease, which Lasker called the “hiccoughs”. In 1939, Lasker had one of the interviewers from the Federal Writers’ Project write his life history which he recounted to her orally. All of the biographical information is gathered from this life history.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Earl M. Lasker and Ada Moses were a married couple who lived in Newton, North Carolina from the day they got married in 1926. Shortly after they were married, Earl began to work at a nearby cotton mill alongside his wife where they did not make a considerable amount of money. A few months after that, Ada Moses contracted the “hiccoughs,” a new disease that doctors did not know how to treat. Those doctors suggested that a Dr. Davis, at his “famous hospital” in Statesville, see her. This first hospital visit lasted a few weeks. The resulting hospital bills left Lasker and his wife unable to pay other bills, so they decided to move in with Moses’s parents and later went to on to rent their own place. A cycle of long periods of healthiness and then months of hiccoughs became the norm for Ada Moses. Lasker and his wife eventually resorted to relying on financial help from neighbors and family members and occasionally free medical service from her doctors. After a few unsuccessful years of treatment, a bedsore, and a morphine addiction, Lasker began to take care of Moses using rudimentary nursing training he had gained from being a patient at Johns Hopkins Hospital years earlier. This training was the only education that Lasker received other than a year of high school. Lasker and Moses had two children born during this period, a son born in 1927 and a daughter in 1929. Ada Moses fully recovered from her hiccoughs after having a large cyst and two tumors removed by Dr. Davis. Earl M. Lasker then bought a house for his family and expected to continue paying his wife’s bill for many years to come. [1]

Social Issues[edit | edit source]

Health Care and Condition[edit | edit source]

During the 1930s, it became increasingly difficult for the general population to acquire adequate health care and nutrition. From an article by Sara Beazley regarding this time period, “One hundred and twenty thousand people are sick each day who should go to the hospital. Of this number only 50 percent are hospitalized.” [2] Unemployment and lowered wages meant that many Americans could not afford to take care of their selves with proper medical care. Going to the hospital was then a last resort for many people. Even though Lasker could not afford his wife’s bills, he still took her to the hospital when her hiccoughs were difficult to handle by his self. In Marakowitz’s Health and Nutrition article, the occasionally free medical care that Ada Moses received is explained as the medical field’s response to the decline in patients. [3] People were also aided by adapting to their new economic statuses and the financial help they received by relying on their family and other relatives. [4]

Education[edit | edit source]

Lasker was of schooling age during the early 1900s and his lack of education was typical of this time period. In an article about early 1900s education it stated that, “Here were some people, both inside and outside the educational establishment, who regarded as simply unproductive the act of encouraging students to acquire knowledge for its own intrinsic value.” [5] Education was not deemed important, which meant that many children who grew up at this time period were not qualified for better paying jobs when they came of age. This disadvantage meant that the Great Depression was even more devastating for those who were uneducated and therefore unqualified for jobs that adequately supported their families.

Historical Production[edit | edit source]

Federal Writer’s Project[edit | edit source]

Earl M. Lasker’s life history was a part of the Federal Writers’ Project that was funded by the New Deal. Roosevelt and his administration used this project to employ unemployed and struggling writers to record what life was like for the average American during this time period. These writers interviewed many Americans and were tasked with fashioning these life histories from what they were told; some of these were direct oral transcripts while others were bibliographical articles. [6]

Issues of Historical Production[edit | edit source]

Given these writers’ perspectives to those whom they interviewed and artistic license, not all of these life histories can be taken at face value. Earl M. Lasker’s life history was merely an oral transcript of what he had told his interviewer. From this, it is difficult to determine whether or not there was any bias present in what the interviewer decided to include and exclude. In Rapport’s critical journal article about the issues of historical production concerning the Federal Writers’ Project, he mentions that, “some of the stories are not necessarily true but are typical of the region and for that reason have been included.” [7] It can be assumed that this life history is more credible than those of other interviewers who altered what they were told for the sake of interest or prejudice, such as writing in an exaggerated vernacular or spicing up the American ordeal. Overall, the validity is still questionable because of the creative nature of this project.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Lasker, Earl. “I’m a Good Nurse.” The Federal Writer’s Project. University of North Carolina, Southern Collection. Web.
  2. Beazley, Sara. “Eight Decades of Health Care.” Hospitals & Health Networks. 81. 2(2007): 12-15. CINAHL with Full Text. Web. 5 Apr. 2013. http://vb3lk7eb4t.search.serialssolutions.com/?ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&ctx_enc=info%3Aofi%2Fenc%3AUTF-8&rfr_id=info:sid/summon.serialssolutions.com&rft_val_fmt=info:ofi/fmt:kev:mtx:journal&rft.genre=article&rft.atitle=H%26HN--eight+decades+of+health+care%3A+80th+anniversary.+The+1930s&rft.jtitle=Hospitals+%26+health+networks+%2F+AHA&rft.date=2007-02-01&rft.issn=1068-8838&rft.eissn=1943-5169&rft.volume=81&rft.issue=2&rft.spage=12&rft_id=info:pmid/17380608&rft.externalDocID=17380608 p. 12.
  3. Markowitz, Gerald. "Health and Nutrition." Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Ed. Robert S. McElvaine. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 428-432. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 14 Apr. 2013. http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?action=interpret&id=GALE%7CCX3404500248&v=2.1&u=unc_main&it=r&p=GVRL&sw=w&authCount=1 p. 428.
  4. Byrson, Dennis. "Family and Home, Impact of the Great Depression on." Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Ed. Robert S. McElvaine. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 310-315. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 25 Apr. 2013. http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CCX3404500173&v=2.1&u=unc_main&it=r&p=GVRL&sw=w p. 311.
  5. "The 1900s: Education: Overview." American Decades. 2001. Encyclopedia.com. 8 Apr. 2013. http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3468301278.html para. 4.
  6. "Federal Writers' Project: About the Project." Federal Writers' Project: About the Project. Library of Congress, 19 Oct. 1998. Web. 5 Apr. 2013. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/wpaintro/wpafwp.html
  7. Rapport, Leonard. “How Valid Are the Federal Writers’ Project Life Stories: An Iconoclast among the True Believers.” The Oral History Review. 7. (1979): 6-17. JSTOR. Web. 6 Apr. 2013. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3675185 p. 6.