Federal Writers' Project - Life Histories/2015/Fall/Section 020/Virginia Suffolk

From Wikiversity
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Virginia Suffolk
BornVirginia Norwalk
1881
Bradford, England
Diedunknown
OccupationNurse, Poultry Farmer, Florist
SpouseJohn Suffolk

Overview[edit]

Virginia Suffolk (1881 - unknown) was and English immigrant who married, and became, a poultry farmer. They moved to Avon Park, Florida and were able to maintain their farm during the Great Depression.

Biography[edit]

Early Life[edit]

Virginia Suffolk (née Norwalk) was born in Bradford, England in 1881. She was one of nine children born to Episcopal parents. Her father was a doctor and, as a child, she enjoyed playing with his medical instruments. She was privately tutored until she attended Blackburn Infirmary in Lancashire. At the age of 22 she graduated and became a nurse. She was interested in culinary arts and also became a dietician.[1]

Move to the United States[edit]

Suffolk wanted to move to the United States after she finished school but her father protested. After his death (circa 1904 -1905), she moved and began work as a nurse in New York. She lived there for 2 years and then developed bronchial trouble from the cold. A doctor recommended she move to a warmer climate and, upon hearing this, she decided to move to Florida.[2]

Marriage[edit]

After living in Jacksonville for three years, she met her husband, John, a man 16 years her senior. After their marriage they moved to Sebring, Florida. There they became poultry farmers. The Suffolks never had any children; John, however, did have two daughters from a previous marriage whom she cared for greatly. During the 1920’s the Suffolks’ poultry business reached its height, owning over 3,000 hens. The prices of hens and eggs greatly fluctuated during this time.[3]

The Great Depression[edit]

The Suffolks' poultry farm was hit with the fall in prices at the onset of the Depression. During the early 1920s they were able to sell a dozen eggs for 80 cents wholesale but after the dropping prices they were only able to sell a dozen eggs for 35 to 45 cents wholesale. As a result of the decline in the economy, they had to reduce the size of their farm and sell many of their hens to keep from going into debt. They moved to Avon Park, Florida, a more rural area. Unlike most people, they were able to maintain their farming business. They did not need the relief provided in the cities because they kept their poultry business running. They saved money when they bought an old house that John fixed up and they were able to obtain food by trading some of their eggs for groceries at the local grocery store. Virginia sold flowers grown in her garden and John worked in town as a builder when they needed extra money. During this time, she took in sick people and nursed them back to help. She also gave her neighbors eggs and food from her garden.[4]

Political Identification[edit]

Suffolk incorrectly assumed after she became an American citizen when she married one. This was not guaranteed and she never obtained citizenship. Despite being unable to vote, she identified as a Democrat. She thought they strove to better the lives of the common people. She approved of the New Deal because of the government aid that was given to people in need and appreciated the government undertaking such a difficult task. She observed that since the New Deal began, she had seen improvements in the farms and homes around her which were once desolate. She also encouraged many of her friends to vote for Democratic candidates in elections because she believed wholeheartedly in the social welfare they were providing.[5]

Farming and the Great Depression[edit]

One of the causes of the Great Depression was the agricultural debt of farmers in the United States. During World War I, agricultural prices drastically increased. This was because the demand for crops was at its peak. After the War ended, there was a surplus of agricultural supply and not enough demand. “Both domestic and international agricultural prices had been falling since the 1920s, capacity having grown faster than demand.”[6] Many farmers, domestic and abroad, went into debt. This debt attributed to the economic downturn and caused the country to fall into the Great Depression.[7]

The Back to the Land Movement[edit]

During the Great Depression, people with little farming experience attempted to farm. They moved towards rural areas and away from urban centers. This rush was known as the “Back to the Land” Movement. It was caused by high unemployment in cities and lack of food. People moved to rural areas in hopes of farming to earn money and to grow food to prevent starvation. However, the move did not help the majority of people who moved because there was more relief provided in cities than rural areas.[8]

The New Deal[edit]

Goals of the New Deal[edit]

After the Great Depression started, the Democratic party gained control of Congress and the presidency. President Franklin D. Roosevelt implemented a plan called The New Deal in an attempt to bolster the failing economy of the nation. In the first hundred days he was in office he created several pieces of legislation with three goals in mind: support the failing banking system, provide relief for farmers to help them produce more food, and get as many people back to work as possible. Another chief goal of his was to provide social welfare for impoverished people through multiple institutions. In 1935 President Roosevelt created one of the most important pieces of legislation to come out of the Great Depression, the Social Security Act. This act provided pensions for the elderly, gave compensation to the unemployed, and supplied welfare benefits to the handicapped and dependent children. [9]

Relief for Farmers[edit]

The New Deal provided aid to farmers, specifically, through the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA), the Farm Credit Act, and the Emergency Railraod Transportation Act. This most important of these acts was the AAA aimed to increase farm production. It “subsidized farmers who curtailed production toward increasing prices and decreasing the volatility of the market”.[10] The AAA was eventually found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court because “congress has no power to enforce its demands on the farmer to the ends sought by the Agricultural Adjustment Act”[11]

References[edit]

  1. Interview, Barbara Berry Darsey and Veronica E. Huss of Virginia Suffolk, February 14, 1939, Florida-8, SHC Collection Number: 03709: Federal Writers' Project Papers, 1936-1940, Federal Writers' Project, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina.
  2. Interview,Barbara Berry Darsey and Veronica E. Huss of Virginia Suffolk, February 14, 1939, Federal Writers' Project.
  3. Interview,Barbara Berry Darsey and Veronica E. Huss of Virginia Suffolk, February 14, 1939, Federal Writers' Project.
  4. Interview,Barbara Berry Darsey and Veronica E. Huss of Virginia Suffolk, February 14, 1939, Federal Writers' Project.
  5. Interview,Barbara Berry Darsey and Veronica E. Huss of Virginia Suffolk, February 14, 1939, Federal Writers' Project.
  6. Frederico, Giovanni. “ Not Guilty? Agriculture in the 1920s and the Great Depression.” The Journal of Economic History 65, no. 4 (December 2005): 951
  7. Frederico, Giovanni. “ Not Guilty? Agriculture in the 1920s and the Great Depression.” The Journal of Economic History 65, no. 4 (December 2005): 951
  8. “Return to the Farms in 1931 Reported: Back-to-Land Movement Cot Under Way Then, President of Great Northern Says. AID IN DROUGHT REVIEWED Bumper Fruit Crop Is Predicted for Wenatchee Valley -- Hope of Truck Regulation Expressed.” The New York Times, May 19, 1932.
  9. McCutcheon, Chuck, and CQ Press. “The New Deal.” In Congress A-Z, 404–405.
  10. Findling, John E, and Frank W Thackeray. “The New Deal.” In What Happened? : An Encyclopedia of Events That Changed America Forever, 1147
  11. Associated Press. “Text Of Majority Opinion Invalidating Agricultural Adjustment Act: SIX JUSTICES DECLARE LAW EXCEEDED LIMITS Hold Crop-Control Plan Is Invasion Of States’ Rights And Beyond Provisions Of General Welfare Clause.” The Sun, January 1936