|Date(s):||October 1929 to January 1936|
|Location(s):||Allegany, Maryland | Frederick, Maryland|
|Tag(s):||Women, The Great Depression, Media, Economy|
|Course:||“Novelty and Nostalgia: The Rise of Modern America, 1877 to 1945,” University of Maryland, Baltimore County|
Following the stock market crash of October and the resulting American economic collapse, Maryland families were left haphazardly arrayed on a financial spectrum starting with “making do” and ending with scrounging. Wives and mothers often managed the day to day expenditures within families and those in the newly reduced middle class adapted and reframed the economic decisions that they made. Women living in towns and cities dealt with their new money problems and simultaneously struggled with the stigma attached to talking about financial problems and the need to keep up appearances. Since personal help and advice on how to save money remained somewhat taboo, women found help in the Women’s sections and household maintenance columns in local newspapers. Through these columns women managed to build a wide reaching but anonymous support network.
These columns ran before the depression but after the economic crash they too adapted and reflected the economic needs of women during the Great Depression. The women’s section of newspapers usually covered roughly two pages and offered a myriad of advice and help to women trying to cut costs. The Daily Mail of Hagerstown, Maryland, ran a weekly Food Market Advice column for women. Information in the column included the rise and fall of prices for local produce and meats and predicted patterns for future prices providing women with needed information for weekly shopping and encouragement to take advantage of local markets. The column also provided meal ideas and menus for the cheapest options. Other articles gave advice about meal plans and offered set prices that they believed could be followed, touting $1.50 or $2.00 plans that could feed large families. Often the advice became extremely detailed. A column titled Sister Mary's Kitchen ran in the Fredrick, Maryland, News. The writer advised women about which cuts of meat cooked the quickest so they might save money on electricity. She noted that the money saved by cooking quickly could be set aside to pay for heating bills. Some columns offered direct tips on how to discretely cut costs so that women could maintain their middle class appearance. These tips ranged from cooking advice --telling women to mix butter and margarine to stretch it farther and hide the taste-- to sewing --advising that dresses could be let down and that ribbon or rickrack could hide the old seams and creases.
Usually these columns were also conscious of the social conventions of the time period and refrained from using terms like “cheap” or “thrifty.” Economical became the standard term used to describe the advice and alert women reading it that they could find advice there. The columns that offered advice also obeyed social conventions by giving women in need of help and advice the anonymity needed to ask. With the help of these columns women managed to navigate their lives and economic choices in the Great Depression.