Federal Writers' Project - Life Histories/2017/Fall/Section 26/Ellen Blanchard

From Wikiversity
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Ellen R. Blanchard
BornEllen Blanchard
unknown
Montgomery, Alabama (presumed)
Diedunknown
Cause of deathNatural Causes (presumed)
Resting placeunknown
ResidenceMontgomery, Alabama
NationalityAmerican
EthnicityCaucasian
EducationHigh School Diploma

Overview[edit]

Ellen R. Blanchard was a housekeeper and stenographer alive during the Great Depression.She was married to Mr. Thomas Fenton, and had three children with him. At some point later in her life Blanchard was interviewed by a member of the Federal writers project, Aelaide Rogers.

Early Life[edit]

Prior to Marriage[edit]

Ellen Blanchard was believed to have been born in Montgomery Alabama, as her families estate is located there. Her father was a wealthy businessman and her mother the caretaker of the household. She finished high school and afterward opted to care for her parents and learned how to run a household for the day she had her own family. Blanchard Shared her fathers belief, lacking any interest in the children of affluent individuals, as she deemed them lacking worth. It was in this point in her life that she met Thomas Fenton, inventor, and her future husband[1].

Marriage[edit]

Following a six month period of courtship, Fenton expressed his desire to marry Blanchard. Blanchard and her family were overjoyed at this news, save for her father, who believed all of Fenton's intentions to be too spectacular to be true. Despite his protests, Blanchard and Fenton married, had a magnificent home wedding, and moved from Montgomery, Alabama to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma[2].

Married Life[edit]

Life in Oklahoma City was rugged, but Blanchard was content. Fenton spent nearly every cent he made on his inventions, so Blanchard was forced to eat his leftovers and whatever else she found. Around this time she had two children, Frances, and a year later, Jaime[3]. When Frances was five and Jaime four, the company Fenton worked for transferred him to Atlanta, Georgia, and Jaime died a few months later of membranous croup. After the child's death Fenton began to resent Blanchard. He blamed her for the death, believing she never cared for their son, and that she should have perished instead of him. He became so lost in grief that at nights he even stood over her as she tried to sleep, stating such things[4]. An unknown amount of time later, Blanchard began expecting another child, Herbert, and Fenton refused to spend a dime on it. He saw the child as a waste, believing that it would only perish as Jaime had prior. Nevertheless Herbert was born and Blanchard managed to have the child survive by explaining Fenton's mindset to those they paid bills to, who then added to their weekly Tab's so that Blanchard could afford to buy clothes and food for the child[5].

Single Motherhood[edit]

Abandonment[edit]

An unknown number of years later, Fenton asked Blanchard to go home to her family for a few months with the children so he could spend time focusing on his inventions. He told her he could focus better without worrying about a family, and that he would send them a sum each month for their expenses. He eventually returned to claim Blanchard and the children, but within a few months he asked her to do so again. Fenton would send Blanchard and the children to stay with her family numerous times, many of those times he sent no money, and eventually he never returned for them[6].

Supporting her Family[edit]

Blanchard was forced to eave her family home, as the Great Depression had caused her fathers business to decline, so he could not support them. Blanchard was fortunate and found a spacious room for rent by a couple known as the Moorefield's, who would serve as both landlords and proxy parents to Blanchard's children when Blanchard was too burdened with work. For seven years Blanchard worked odd jobs while training herself in short hand in order to become a stenographer. She got the job but quit after a short time because she became upset and resigned. She then worked as a maid at the Ashley Hotel in Montgomery, Alabama, presumably until she retired however, it is unknown when that is[7].

Fenton Returns[edit]

An unspecified number of years later, Fenton returned to the home where Ellen and the children are staying. He explained to them his grand plan to move them to California, where they will live in luxury while Herbert joins a military academy and Frances becomes an actress. Blanchard refused his proposal, but their children accepted it. After Herbert and Frances left with Fenton, Ellen became overcome with grief. She attempted to take her own life by pouring chloroform into her pillow while she slept, but it failed. She found via letter a few days later that Thomas had lied to the children, and told them she would be joining them in California. When they discovered this was not true they returned to Ellen and cared for her, presumably until her death, although it is unknown when her death date is[8].

Social Issues[edit]

California Migration[edit]

In the wake of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, California became a hotbed for migration. While many of the 241,930 immigrants to California from June 1935 to May 1938 were farmers who attempted to utilize California's longer growing seasons and large farms, it nevertheless established California as a land of opportunity for those looking for work[9]. California also became a haven for those hoping to work in cinema, as during the Great Depression numerous iconic movies such as: Frankenstein, King Kong, and the Wizard of Oz came out in order to distract citizens from their dismal lives. These opportunities made California appeal to swaths of impoverished Americans[10].

Stenography and the Female Worker in the Great Depression[edit]

It was difficult to find a job in a sexist, male dominated job market, in a time where jobs were not plentiful. Women began to find clerical work as a stenographer, a field that at the time was becoming more and more dominated by women. During the time of the depression, the Census of 1930 showed that 10,752,116 women, or about one fifth of the female population, were working, compared with three fourths of the male population[11]. In other words, a great majority of women today were caring for their families in their homes. This means women entered a job market where only twenty percent of them found employment, while in many cases simultaneously raising children[12]. Many women found work in clerical jobs such as stenography due to the growth of the field. In fact in 1880 typing and stenography occupied a mere 154 people in the US, only 4 percent of whom were women. Thirty years later 77 percent of the 112,600 typists and stenographers listed in the U.S. Census were women[13]. Clerical jobs in such a competitive job market were smart decisions for many women, given the rise of clerical jobs in the recent years, as well as the prominence of women in that field when compared to the overall ratio of female to male workers.

Infant Mortality in the Great Depression[edit]

The death-rates of children and infants rose during the Great Depression. This is due in part to the fact that Infant and non-infant death rates tend to be positively related to the extent that the two age groups are struck by the same contagious diseases or faced similar environmental hazard[14]. This essentially explains that the strained economic state of many American families led to a less than hospitable living condition for many children, causing their untimely deaths. At its peak, infant mortaility in certain regions of the nation reached nearly 1 in every 10 infants[15]. In an instance of instance of having multiple children, it is possible that Increases in birth rates led to reductions in intervals between births with the consequence of less maternal care available per child, possibly explaining that a mother with multiple children may unintentionally neglect one, leading to a decline in the childs health[16].

References[edit]

England, K., and K. Boyer. "Womens Work: The Feminization and Shifting Meanings of Clerical Work."Journal of Social History 43, no. 2 (2009): 307-40. doi:10.1353/jsh.0.0284

Roosevelt, Eleanor, and Jill Lepore. Its up to the women. New York: Nation Books, 1933.

Fishback, Price, Michael Haines, and Shawn Kantor. "Births, Deaths, and New Deal Relief during the Great Depression."The Review of Economics and Statistics Vol.89, 2005. doi:10.3386/w11246.

Howe, Claire. "Return of the Lady." New Outlook, (October 1934).

Lovell, Katherine “Migrant Aid in California 1849: 1939: A Comparison of the Social Services for Transients During the Gold Rush and the Great Depression” The American Journal of Economics and Sociology Vol.3 (October 1943)

"Most Popular Feature Films Released 1930-01-01 to 1939-12-31." IMDb. Accessed October 10, 2017. http://www.imdb.com/search/title/?release_date=1930%2C1939&title_type=feature.

Rogers, Adelaide "Mrs.Blanchard: Professional Mother" Federal Writers Project Papers 1936-1940

  1. Rogers, Adelaide "Mrs.Blanchard: Professional Mother" Federal Writers Project Papers 1936-1940, pg. 3-5
  2. ibid, pg. 5
  3. ibid, pg. 6-7
  4. ibid, pg.8
  5. ibid, pg.9
  6. ibid, pg.9-10
  7. ibid, pg. 11,13-14
  8. ibid, pg. 15-16
  9. Lovell, Katherine “Migrant Aid in California 1849: 1939: A Comparison of the Social Services for Transients During the Gold Rush and the Great Depression” The American Journal of Economics and Sociology Vol.3 (October 1943)
  10. "Most Popular Feature Films Released 1930-01-01 to 1939-12-31." IMDb. Accessed October 10, 2017. http://www.imdb.com/search/title/?release_date=1930%2C1939&title_type=feature.
  11. England, K., and K. Boyer. "Womens Work: The Feminization and Shifting Meanings of Clerical Work."Journal of Social History 43, no. 2 (2009): 307-40. doi:10.1353/jsh.0.0284
  12. Howe, Claire. "Return of the Lady." New Outlook, (October 1934).
  13. England, K., and K. Boyer. "Womens Work: The Feminization and Shifting Meanings of Clerical Work."Journal of Social History 43, no. 2 (2009): 307-40. doi:10.1353/jsh.0.0284
  14. Fishback, Price, Michael Haines, and Shawn Kantor. "Births, Deaths, and New Deal Relief during the Great Depression."The Review of Economics and Statistics Vol.89, 2005. doi:10.3386/w11246
  15. ibid, pg.7
  16. ibid, pg.4