Federal Writers' Project - Life Histories/2015/Fall/Section 018/Lolly Bleu
Gulf Coast of Texas
|Notable works||Interviewed for the Federal Writer's Project|
Lolly Bleu was an individual that had been interviewed during the Federal Writer’s Project. She was part of a poverty struck family who resided in a small town in Florida. She was also raising a disabled child.
Bleu was raising a typical large family in the late 30’s. She was roughly 50 years old at the time she was interviewed for the Federal Writer’s Project. Bleu lived with her husband who she referred to as “Pa” and 10 of her 13 children. Pa was 67 years old. They had been raised on farms and learned their lifestyle from that of their parents. Bleu and Pa were both from small towns near the Gulf Coast in Texas. Once married, the couple moved to Florida because they had heard of arising opportunities for profitable farming land. They resided in an old, abandoned barn. Many other farmers had the same idea and the area soon began to become overpopulated. This yielded for an excess of crops so Bleu and Pa were never able to make large profit.
Life at the Farm
Pa kept up the crops for the family that the couple had planned for. When Bleu was interviewed, she had a total of 13 children. The two oldest boys had not taken well to school and since moved out to work as laborers for small amounts of pay. The eldest daughter, Bee, had not liked living so far out so she moved towards town and took a waitressing job. Bee would often send money home to the poverty stricken family. There was one other child that Bleu took special interest in and that was Edie, her 8 year old daughter who has disabled and completely dependent. The food was what was most affected by the low amount of income that came into the house. Edie required a special diet as she didn’t have teeth and struggled to eat anything on her own. Bleu mentioned that often times the family would go without eating to see that Edie could have her meal.
Poverty and disability compensations were the two most difficult things that Bleu had to deal with. She said that the miles that they lived out of town provided good exercise for the children and kept them out of trouble and also provided privacy for her beloved Edie. Bleu had been raised to work hard to be successful. She believed that her children would benefit from farm work the way she did. This belief led to her leniency in tolerance for her children’s attendance to school. The family didn’t go to church either because they didn’t have a means of transportation. These choices about daily life were considerably normal during this time period due to the poor economic status of America. Bleu was interviewed in the year 1938, which was around the end of the Great Depression. Therefore, the poverty level that the Bleu family was experiencing was average of most farmers at that time period. Aside from Edie’s disability, the size and economic status of Bleu’s family would have been an accurate generalization of most farming families of that time era. There are no records of Bleu or her family after her interview.
Lolly's Biggest Battles
Bleu was raising her family in one of the worst economic downfalls in the history of the United States: The Great Depression.
Disabled Patients During the Great Depression
Bleu faced the difficulty of raising a child who had Polio. Mark Sauer, a polio survivor once said “But polio left kids crippled, and that was an image that this big postwar country simply couldn’t abide.”Polio was a disease that affected a large portion of the United State’s population throughout the beginning of the Great Depression. Treatment for this disease was limited as it was extremely uncommon for families to have insurance during this time period.
Through this depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt was the president of the United States. He was aware of the growing disease as he, himself was a victim of it. He began to take actions to provide assistance to the victims but he overlooked their families. Mothers of disabled children were considered “unemployable”. This term would have made individuals like Bleu unable to bring any income into their household even though they are the ones who needed extra money to provide for their disabled children. One orthotist stated that the victims and their caretakers were required to be “outgoing” and “strong-willed” in order to live through this disease that was captivating their lives.
The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP), which later became known as the March of Dimes was founded in 1938. It was created in response to the State’s inability to respond to the tremendous amount of medical assistance that needed to be provided to the population because of Polio. Polio is now just one of many diseases that March of Dimes supports.
Homelessness and Squatting During the Great Depression
Bleu’s family was one of many who were referred to as Squatters. This was a term that was used to describe individuals or families who made temporary homes out of abandoned buildings in order to avoid having to pay rent.
There was a projected 10,000 women who were homeless in 1932. This figure did not include women and children who were evicted and had to move in with families or friends.
Yet another cause of the women’s lack of financial stability is because even when the economy is good the only jobs that are available are dead-end jobs. Some women often referred to the daily tasks that they were responsible for as “dull” and “alone” because they brought no income into the family.
The social dilemma of being homeless had negative impacts that surpassed financial situations. Families had a lack of nutrition (especially Edie), education, and hygiene. “The children of families perhaps suffer most of all. They are dazed, bewildered bits of humanity driven from town to town by a strange force called a ‘depression’.”
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