Federal Writers' Project - Life Histories/2015/Fall/Section 018/Bernie Turner

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Overview[edit]

Bernie Turner (unknown-unknown) owned a boarding house and lived in Alexander City, Alabama.

Bernie Turner
BornUnknown
Alexander City, Alabama
DiedUnknown
Alexander City, Alabama
OccupationTeacher & Boarding House Owner

Biography[edit]

The Life of Bernie Turner[edit]

Early Life[edit]

Turner (unknown-unknown) was born into a family of eight children, having four brothers and four sisters, and lived in Alexander City, Alabama. She was raised in a religious household.

Adult Life[edit]

Turner was married to Ernest and they had no children. During the 1930s-1940s women were limited in the workplace, but Turner possessed two jobs. She was a teacher until medical issues with her back arose. In 1938, she became the owner of a boarding house. She housed two sick elderly women sent to her by the Department Of Public Welfare. Another man was sent to her by his two sisters because he had a mental incapacity. Turner took care of all these people as well as her husband. Turner's husband, Ernest, spent most of their money trying to become an inventor but failed to do so repeatedly. Turner continued to struggle with her illness throughout her years as a boardinghouse owner.

Social Context[edit]

Health Reforms and Mortality Rates[edit]

While there were few health reforms made during the Great Depression, statistics show that there was a decrease in mortality rates regardless of age or race. The populations' health did not decline but increased during the Great Depression. The annual life expectancy gain was 0.4 years with an increase of 8.8 years between the years 1920-1940. [1] While physical health improved for most people during the Great Depression, mental health declined. Suicide mortality was the only death rate that increased during the Great Depression. Suicides came as a result of unemployment during the Great Depression. Several studies have shown a consistent relationship between levels of unemployment and suicide rates.[2] "The evolution of population health during the years 1920–1940 confirms the counterintuitive hypothesis that, as in other historical periods and market economies, population health tends to evolve better during recessions than in expansions."[3] Research suggests that periods of economic growth result in a slowing or even a reversal of long term trends for health improvement during the Great Depression.[4]

Religion in the South[edit]

The Great Depression impacted churches greatly within the south. The Mormon Church is an example of how churches changed within the Great Depression. The Depression not only affected individual members within the churches, but it also affected the church as a whole. People began to make less money which resulted in lower tithes, the Church's main source of revenue. As a result of low church revenue, the churches would meet more frequently and found guidance through the scriptures.[5] The Mormon Church provided a welfare program that actively looked for employment opportunities for people, maintained a storehouse, and found many ways to help the needy. [6] Before the 1930s, the interest in religion was declining. When the Great Depression hit the south in the 1930s, most churches experienced a 5% attendance increase. [7] Clergymen viewed the attendance increase in the churches as a heavenly response to the Great Depression. [8] During this time period, statistics show that the average church goer was a middle aged woman, with very few attendees of either sex under the age 30. A reason for this could have been the marked decline in piety among the younger generations. The lower class focused more on religion than the upper class. [9] "The tip of a hat by the dead rich gentleman being rushed up to heaven shows the only tacit attention which such individuals, often caught up in the business world, paid to matters of religion."[10]

The Sense of Life Within a Boardinghouse[edit]

Boarding houses are defined as a house providing food and lodging for paying guests. People that experienced illnesses and could not take care of themselves at this time were sent to boarding houses all over America. The boarding house owners were paid to take care of these sick people. Although, most of the time, these boarding house owners were people who had previous jobs that had gotten ill and couldn't perform those jobs any longer. Having a boardinghouse was said to be "the most cruel and thankless way a woman could earn her living." [11] These housekeepers washed, cooked, cleaned and swept. They were the caretaker of the house and the people.The boarding house provided a familial setting for non-family members. [12]

  1. Cross, Mark. “Life and Death During the Great Depression,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (18 August 2009): 106, 41. Accessed 16 October 2015. http://www.pnas.org/content/106/41/17290.full
  2. Mishara, Brian. “Suicide and the economic depression: Reflection on Suicide during the Great Depression,” Accessed 16 October 2015. https://www.iasp.info/pdf/papers/mishara_suicide_and_the_economic_depression.pdf
  3. Cross, Mark. “Life and Death During the Great Depression,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (18 August 2009): 106, 41. Accessed 16 October 2015. http://www.pnas.org/content/106/41/17290.full
  4. Cross, Mark. “Life and Death During the Great Depression,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (18 August 2009): 106, 41. Accessed 16 October 2015. http://www.pnas.org/content/106/41/17290.full
  5. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- Day Saints. “The Church During the Great Depression,” Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, (2003): 508-521. Accessed October 16 2015. https://www.lds.org/manual/church-history-in-the-fulness-of-times-student-manual/chapter-thirty-nine-the-church-during-the-great-depression?lang=eng
  6. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- Day Saints. “The Church During the Great Depression,” Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, (2003): 508-521. Accessed October 16 2015. https://www.lds.org/manual/church-history-in-the-fulness-of-times-student-manual/chapter-thirty-nine-the-church-during-the-great-depression?lang=eng
  7. The New Yorker. “Religion During the Great Depression,” (19 November 2009): Accessed 16 October 2015.
  8. The New Yorker. “Religion During the Great Depression,” (19 November 2009): Accessed 16 October 2015.
  9. The New Yorker. “Religion During the Great Depression,” (19 November 2009): Accessed 16 October 2015.
  10. The New Yorker. “Religion During the Great Depression,” (19 November 2009): Accessed 16 October 2015.
  11. Wendy Gamber. The Boardinghouses in 19th Century America (Maryland: The John Hopkins University Press, 2007), Google Books.
  12. Ruth Graham. “Boardinghouses: Where the City was Born.” Globe Correspondent (13 January 2013): accessed 30 September 2015, https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2013/01/13/boardinghouses-where-city-was-born/Hpstvjt0kj52ZMpjUOM5RJ/story.html