Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2016/Spring/Section 023/The Thomas Family
The Thomas (or Thompson) family lived in Avon Park, Florida during the Great Depression. The family consisted of mother Allie, father Harris (also stated as Horace), their children Joey, Ruthie, Ellie, and Grace, as well as Allie’s sister and her son Johnnie. The birth date of these individuals are all unknown, but it is estimated that Allie and Harris were born shortly after the year 1900. Their children varied in age, with their oldest daughter Grace being born approximately in 1923.
Harris was incapable of holding a consistent job, as was common during the Great Depression in the 1930’s. Harris’ wife Allie is a midwife and helps her neighbors deliver their children. This is not a source of revenue for the family, as these individuals are just as poor as the Thomas family. Their children do not work, with their eldest daughters seeking to further their education instead of contributing income to the family.
The Thomas family lived in the worst period of economic turmoil in American history. With record levels of unemployment, mere survival was a challenge for many families during the Great Depression. Inconsistent work was a consistent aspect of life, and it led to the struggle of many families. It was not uncommon for children to pick up jobs of their own to contribute to the household income.
Another problem the family faces is the health of Allie’s sister Della. Living with her sister’s family while her husband seeks work away from home, she faces health complications while pregnant with her next child. The infrastructure of the south was still largely undeveloped at this time, making a hospital within traveling distance an unlikely possibility. This adds further complications to the health of a woman experience complications during pregnancy.
Lastly, the lack of free public education leads to an excess of uneducated workers. This makes workers replaceable, bringing down the cost of labor and wages. Education costs money, something that is not easy to come by when work was not available for many families.