This source summarizes a series of interviews with a rural North Carolina family in 1938. In this interview, one family member references elements of New Deal programs designed to help farmers during the Great Depression.
Mary Allen and her husband, John Allen, are about sixty years of age. They live alone on a farm of forty-five acres situated on a private community road a half-mile from the State road…
…Neither family knew how to estimate an adequate income. As they had done in other years, they would “tough It out” during the winter on potatoes, hog meat which they had raised in small quantity, a few cans of vegetables and fruits, and meal and flour which they would buy, and anxiously await the vegetable garden in the spring. Wood for fuel was found on the place or secured from a near-by saw-mill. As farming was the only thing they had known or planned to know, they had few complaints to make. They did not feel that they would be any more fortunate if they lived in town because town life would call for rent and purchase of almost all the food.
Mr. Allen usually votes but his wife has never gone to the polls. The husband vaguely feels that government has become more complex. He occasionally knows of some one who has obtained an old age pension but his talk is mostly of tobacco and cotton allotments. He does not like the control method but would not say that he was willing to go back to the old method of individualism.
The Allen family believes in the church as a check on bad conduct but the parents do not attend church regularly except during the annual revival services.
The family has been fortunate in not having many medical costs. Mary has not had a physician prescribe for her in twenty-one years until this summer when she suffered for a month with dropsy and “high blood.” The family believes that work on the farm is more healthy than work in town. This family does not live upon corn meal fat-back, and molasses; but they could hardly be said to have an adequate diet.
During the spring, summer, and fall the family is busy with cotton, tobacco, corn, and garden stuff. When the cotton is ginned, the labor will lighten, consisting mainly in feeding and hog-killing. In leisure hours the men hunt or fish or loaf at the filling station a mile to the south. When the young people were at home they would occasionally go to Smithfield to the movies. Courtship is usually short and marriage often occurs in the ‘teens. Drinking is the most common vice among the men although it is by no means universal.
I came away from this home with the feeling that these people are living in an obscure corner away from the main current of life stirring in the nation. The one weekly paper is about the only regular contact with the outside world. Neither Allen nor his tenant has a radio. Desire for progress is lacking and industry is at too low an ebb to move forward even if ambition were aroused.
Citation: Allen, M. (1938) Mary Allen. North Carolina. [Manuscript/Mixed Material] Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/item/wpalh001804/. Accessed 22 August 2023.
- What are Mr. Allen’s feelings on the current state of the government?
- Does Mary Allen’s husband seem to be for or against New Deal benefits? Explain your answer.
- Based on this source, was the New Deal a good deal for North Carolina? What evidence do you have from this source that supports your answer?
Pension: regular payment made to someone who has retired from work
Allotments: amounts of something given to someone
Individualism: idea or belief that people should be independent and self-reliant rather than receiving or relying on help from others, including the government
Dropsy and “high blood”: swelling or puffiness caused by excess fluid in the body that mostly occurs in hands, arms, feet, ankles, and legs, and high blood pressure
Loaf: lounge or be idle
Vice: bad or immoral habit or practice
Obscure: remote; far from the public eye
Tenant: someone who rents land or a house from someone else for a period of time
Ebb: decline or decay