Archive for the ‘living in poverty’ Category

You guys must wonder where I have been for the past several months. I have been researching and writing the Frog Gravy legal case! I will begin to blog that soon. Today’s essay is a continuation of a historical series about Missouri farm life history.

Cross-posted at Firedoglake MyFDL

Bertha: the Singer 201K

photo by Princess Froglips on flickr

This is a nonfiction account of sewing, materials and clothing and how they progressed, from the late 1920s on a small Missouri farm, to the years beyond the war, as told by Letty Owings, age 88.

Feed Sacks and Roses

Massive change came to sewing over the years from the Great Depression to the post-WWII era, due to fabric importation from countries like China and India as well as the introduction of stretch (synthetic) fabric. The first time I really remember seeing a Made in China symbol, Ceaușescu was trading with Mao.

Before stretch fabric and textile importation, every store had a section where they sold bolts of cloth, and they also had remnant tables where they sold fabric scraps. Any town of any size had an industry, whether it was a button factory, a textile manufacturer, a sewing machine manufacturer, a foundry, a machine shop, or a related industry.

I first started learning to sew in 1929 when I was five and lived on a small farm in Missouri. I was fortunate, because my mother let me use the treadle sewing machine as soon as I could get up to it. Since we were so isolated on the small farm, I lived in a world of imagination and dolls, so I made doll clothes. When I reached the upper grades of grade school I started making children’s clothes for my aunt’s children, taking real pride in my work, and my aunt acted like she was grateful.

We washed our clothes with a scrub board (a washboard) and homemade soap. Our cleaning was not mechanized for many years because seclusion placed us behind the the times, but our first ‘washer’ was a hand-cranked wringer that we used to wring clothes that we had washed in a tub. Electricity did not extend to that rural area, even by the end of WWII. Our ironing board was made of wood.

By this time, the chicken feed industry had figured out how popular the sacks were for clothing, and they put color prints on the hen scratch sacks. My mother made everything, even underwear and hats, from the sacks. She also dressed so that all of her skin was covered for picking corn, because a tan was considered ugly. My mother sewed the sacks and the remnant table scraps for many years. My prom dress was pink sharkskin with a black collar. We took the collar off, and the prom dress was my dressy dress after that.

People continued to sew from feed sacks even in later years. When I was first married and lived in Georgia, we had a visitor who asked for a bed sheet. We didn’t have a bed sheet, but I made one, by sewing four feed sacks together. A woman across the street in Georgia had figured out how to make money by sewing for rich people. She sewed for the Southern belles, and she taught me how to attach embroidered butterflies to a garment so the butterflies appeared to be flying. She also taught me smocking and other sewing tricks. Also, during this time, I would go to the fancy department stores and draw the patterns for kid’s clothes, then take the patterns to remnant places and use the drawings to make my kid’s clothes. Often, stores did not carry much variety in boy clothes, but I made boy and girl clothes.

No female ever wore pants in the years before the war. It was an absolute no-no, although when they started making wool pants for snow, my mother got me a pair for three dollars, to wear for bobsledding. During the Rosie-the-Riveter cultural icon era, where women wore slacks and heavy shoes to work in the war plants, wearing slacks never carried over to the home. Even boys sometimes wore little dresses. One permissible exception was that a female could wear pants to sled ride and ice skate. Incidentally, a fabric black market arose during the war effort, since fabric went to the 24/7 war plants.

I tore a hole in the butt of my three-dollar wool pants, bobsledding on the river bluffs with friends, but I never told my mother, because first of all, she would have known where I had been. When I taught in the tiny school I had attended, I once wore slacks in the snow during a one-hour break. The next day, a girl told me that her father had called together a family meeting and read a passage from the Bible to illustrate how unacceptable it really was, for me to wear pants.

In 1941, Ray, the man I would marry, was called to service in the war. He came to my house with a dozen roses, to let me know. I was wearing slacks, and I ran across the yard to greet him. My mother was horrified that I would even think to greet a man outside, wearing slacks, and she screamed at me. My mother was an artist in her heart, but the other side of being an artist is often a feeling of social displacement, and this description fit my mother.

end notes, author’s disclosure and updates:

Letty’s husband, Ray, who came to the house with a dozen roses, served in the Pacific Theater of Operations, Battle of Okinawa, on the attack cargo ship Artemis Class USS Lacerta (AKA-29), as a boat Commander. He turned 90 in January, 2013. This Friday, his son and grandson will accompany him on a visit to Pearl Harbor, and the Pearl Harbor museum.

Ray and Letty, who tell their story, are my parents. This essay is part of a series. Links to some other essays:

Public Health Hospital and Charity Hospital New Orleans Internship of 1958

The Lavender Ribbon

A Kernel of Wheat

Medicine in a Rural Farming Community in 1920s Missouri

Resources for people who own treadle sewing machines today (maintenance, conversion, restoration, repair):

The Sewing Machine Shop

The Wood Shop

TreadleOn.Net

An Off-Topic bald eagle update: The Decorah Eagles chose a nest that is off camera, but Raptor Resource reports that Mom Decorah is sitting on her first egg. They have observed the ‘Decorah Shimmy’ from the ground. Dad Decorah Eagle occasionally visits the Y-Branch that is still on-camera.

Choctaw slave grave site

photo by amy_b/flickr

note: This is a true account of how a rural Missouri farming community handled death before WWII, as told by Letty Owings, age 87.

The customs and traditions pertaining to death in our community were in place prior to the Civil War and remained unchanged until after WWII. Prior to the Civil War, the land that would become our farm was multi-crop plantation territory where corn, wheat and clover grew. After the Civil War, the plantation area was divided into farms. Our farm was 160 square acres. We had no street address; we were part of a community that included a population of about 300 in the country and 600 in the nearby town.

A woman I knew named Minni had lived through the period prior to the Civil War, and I would often visit her and listen to her stories. On the way to her house, I passed a slave graveyard of about twenty graves that remained on the property. Many of the graves were simple stone markers indicating a child’s burial. In those days death was common among infants and young children in general, and it was not regarded with the same concern that it is today. It wasn’t that people were mean about it, they were just more honest. In other words, deaths of infants and children were almost expected. Causes of death among slave children in particular were never noted or studied during that time, although looking back one can speculate that tuberculosis, pneumonia, and other diseases and childbirth complications common to that era for all children may have been the cause. We must bear in mind that penicillin was not available until after WWII.

Although the Civil War ended slavery, it did not end segregation, nor did it end mindsets, attitudes or plantation thinking. There was no end to segregation until Martin Luther King came along. Minni’s aristocracy mindset was evident in her velvet curtains with beads and her velvet chair and velvet footstool, and in her marriage to a man named George. George had not hailed from the upper echelon of plantation hierarchy, and Minni never let him forget it. While George tended to the chickens, for example, Minni stayed inside on her velvet throne, reminiscing.

One day, George died. Death in those days was in the living room. There were no funeral homes before WWII, so when someone died, an embalmer, usually the local undertaker, came to the home, embalmed the body, placed it in an open casket and took the casket to the living room. The body was never removed from the house before the funeral. Death was also a community affair, so when someone died, a person rang the phone six times on a party line to spread the news. The local German Evangelical Church in the community, on receipt of news of a death, would ring the church bell one time for each year of a person’s life. This practice of ringing the bell was repeated at the funeral. As the casket was carried into the church, the bell chimed one time for each year of the person’s life. There was only one possible exception to tradition that I remember. Someone shot a man named Red in the middle of the day, in the middle of town. The news spread by word of mouth in the form of “Someone shot ‘Ole Red today,” followed by the reply indicating consensus that went something like, “Good riddance.”

After death and embalming, while the body waited in the living room, the custom at the time was never to leave the body alone. People were assigned the duty of ‘setting,’ which amounted to sitting with the body, in shifts. Death was all a part of life, and I mention these customs because most kids today have probably never seen a body. As kids in those days, we might be assigned to sit with the body for a couple of hours during the day. Night shifts were arranged among the men in the community who would ask each other, “Who is setting up tonight?” My father often took the duty. He also sat with the dying. The person doing the night duty would light a candle at each end of the coffin, and sit all night with the body.

Minni did not want to attend George’s funeral, but my father forced her to attend. My father saw no distinction in a person’s worth based on economic status or social class. He saw everyone as equal. In the end, Minni attended the funeral.

My father also took the position that all people were equal regardless of the color of their skin, which was remarkable for the time. Racism was not delineated as unacceptable in those days. Rather, it was an integral and accepted part of the culture, so much so that we had no other perspective. My father forbade the use of the n-word in any conversational utterance. That my father’s view was a dramatic departure from acceptable norms of the times became apparent many years later.

Alice Heun: The Corn Crib, 1934
Alice Heun: The Corn Crib, 1934 photo by Smithsonian American Art Museum/flickr

note: I don’t have any money, but listening to this guy makes me want to find some. Check this out, great way to raise money BTW:

This is a story from the Great Depression as told by Letty Owings, age 87. It is a true account of three organized community activities in a small rural farming community in Missouri during the 1930s.

The Blue Taffeta Dress

While we worked hard on the farm during the drought years in the mid-1930s, we also set aside three days each year for entertainment. These days were community organized and structured fun that everyone looked forward to and talked about all year.

Each autumn we had a pie supper at the rural school that served as our community center. The idea was that a woman, or usually a girl baked a pie, and the pies were auctioned off. The auctioneer, who was sometimes my father, would hold up the pie and chant, “Now what am I to give for this pie, ten cents who’ll give me ten cents, ten, and raise it to fifteen, ah fifteen and twenty, twenty cents over here and thirty thirty do I hear forty…” A girl would want a good price for her pie, and she may say, “My, they paid a dollar for my pie!” Many of the pies were milk-based custards because mince was too expensive. Pumpkin, squash and apple pies were popular, and on occasion when someone could afford raisins, there was raisin pie.

The rule was that the man who bought the pie shared the pie with the girl who baked it. The quality of the pie didn’t have much to do with the price of eggs, it was the gathering and the fun that mattered. The people would gossip about the drought and gossip about their kids, and interject with who bought what pie for how much by saying things like, “Yeah, you know, he bought her pie.” Nobody ever kept any of the money for the pies. The funds went into the school.

On the last day of school, every woman in the community brought something to eat to the annual basket dinner at school. Women took a great deal of pride in what they brought, whether it was pickles, beans, apple butter or other dishes, so the basket dinner was both contest and entertainment. The women put the food out on the ground for all to enjoy, and we ate on the ground. Some of the coal miner kids were too poor to bring food, but the country people were very generous, so the kids all got to eat.

There was no separation of church and state back in those days, so the next big event, the Christmas program, was held either at the school or at the church, and everyone started planning for it in October. We had an old piano with missing keys and back then no one looked askance that we sang religious songs and Christmas carols. The kids gave speeches and participated in plays that were read from a Depression-era book with scripts. The dialogue was humorous or it delivered some sort of a lesson, but it was all copied, sometimes from Charles Dickens and often from other sources. The names of some of the plays were: Mr. Dash Goes Shopping, Tramp at the Picnic, Change of Heart, and Too Much Spending, but there were others.

I often had a part in the Christmas play, but I never had any decent clothes until 1932 when my Grandpa went blind. My dad took him to California on a train because it was better for my grandfather to be with kinfolks in California who had a little more money. My dad returned with two avocados. We had never seen an avocado and did not quite know what to do with them, so my mother cut them into pieces and put them in the flour bin. We would get a piece, shake the flour off and cut it into bites. My cousin in California with money gave my dad a blue taffeta dress for me, and this put me in a world of my own. It had a lace collar and lace cuffs and nobody that I knew ever had a blue taffeta dress with a lace collar and lace cuffs. My cousin did stage dancing, so she had plenty of access to nice clothes.

I decided to wear the dress for my part in the Christmas play.

The play said that I had to have chewing gum, so I got a stick of chewing gum, but I did not know what to do with chewing gum, so I rolled it on my fingers. The gum got stuck on the blue taffeta dress. I was frantic and nearly forgot my lines, the dress was not washable and I did not want my mother to know, but I had to tell her. My mother figured out that if we put ice on the dress it would freeze the gum so that I could pull it off. So, I am in the back yard with the blue dress in the snow because we did not have any ice to put on the dress.

I wore that blue taffeta dress until I could no longer squeeze myself into it, and years later, I visited my cousin in a nursing home, and told her how much that blue dress meant to me.

note: The scripts in the playbook from that time are fascinating, and will be the subject of a future essay, as they reflect the culture of the time.

Alice Heun: Barn and Cows, 1934
Photo: Alice Heun: Barn and Cows, 1934. by americanartmuseum, Smithsonian American Art Museum, creative commons, flickr

note: This is a true account of life on a small Missouri farm during the Great Depression, as told by Letty Owings, age 87. It is a description of two precise arts. Other examples of precise arts include quilting, weaving, and canning.

Lye Soap and Apple Butter

Two labor-intensive jobs that the adults did every Fall was to prepare the lye soap and the apple butter. Each family prepared its own supply of these two staples, and the supply had to last the whole year. Equipment was essential for these jobs. For the apple butter, the large iron kettle had to be copper lined so that the apple butter did not stick or burn. For the soap, a large iron kettle was used.

The apple butter kettle was passed down through the generations. If a family did not have an apple butter kettle, they shared with another family. Newly married couples inherited a kettle and when a farmer died and the farm was to be dissolved, there was always much discussion about who was going to get the apple butter kettle.

The apple butter was cooked over a fire with a long-burning wood, and so that the person stirring could withstand the heat, she used a stirrer that was very long- five feet or so. Kids never did the stirring or the stoking of the fire, for fear of scalding or burns. My mother did the stirring, and there was a very specific rhythm to it: right side-left side- middle. The rhythm prevented any sticking and ensured consistency and taste. One part was never stirred more than the other. Each woman had her own recipe of spices and sugar in specific ratios that had also been handed down through generations like the kettle.

DO - Apple Day Apple Butter
Photo by vastateparksstaff on flickr

Farming women set aside three days for the apple butter. The first day was for peeling, the second day was for cooking and the third was for canning. There was always talk about whose apple butter was better and every woman believed her apple butter was the best. Apple butter was a staple and making apple butter in the fall was a matter of pride for each family. The women always wore sun bonnets to stir the apple butter because a tan was considered ugly. Women covered their arms to prevent any burns from splattering. The men built the fire and set the kettle in place, but the women peeled the apples and did the stirring. On the third day, my mother put the apple butter into jars with snap-on lids, boiled the jars and covered the lids with sealing wax. On apple butter days I would run home real fast to watch.

Like apple butter, the lye soap making was both art and ritual, and it was done individually, not communally. Soap was made in a large iron kettle over an outside fire, and a long stirrer was used. Women took great pride in their soap and there was always the exchange among neighbors, “What is your soap like?” My mother saved animal fat from the butchering and this was the basis for the soap. She added lye and stirred to a precise consistency. This was important because she needed to be able to pour, cool and then slice the soap into bars.

The soap had a neutral, clean smell, and the goal was to make the soap as white as possible. The browner the soap, the less respect others had for the soap and for the soap maker. There was great pride in the soap quality and in how nice the cut was, and how pretty the bars. The lye soap lasted all year, and we used it to hand wash everything. I had my own little washboard, that I got for Christmas.

A great deal of expertise went into soap cooking. My mother was an artist and a designer who was an excelled at sewing and quilt making, and these talents carried over into her soap and apple butter making as well as canning. Today apple butter does not taste the same, probably because the apples have changed and because it is difficult to duplicate the unique and wonderful taste of apple butter that is made over an open fire. We ate our apple butter on cornbread. I assumed that cornbread came over from the old country in Germany where my ancestors came from, but I learned much later that cornbread was an American addition.

Note:

Saponification is a process that produces soap, usually from fats and lye. In technical terms, saponification involves base (usually caustic soda NaOH) hydrolysis of triglycerides, which are esters of fatty acids, to form the sodium salt of a carboxylate. In addition to soap, such traditional saponification processes produces glycerol. “Saponifiable substances” are those that can be converted into soap.[1]

Source.

This is a true account of two farming community events during the Great Depression as told by Letty Owings, age 87

Joe Jones: Men and Wheat (mural study, Seneca, Kansas Post Office), 1939
Joe Jones: Men and Wheat (mural study, Seneca, Kansas Post Office), 1939 By americanartmuseum
Smithsonian American Art Museum, creative commons, flickr

Author’s note: For those of you following the current drought, here are some corn and soybean pictures I snapped yesterday, in Western Tennessee, at the Kentucky border. Thrashing of the wheat, an activity that is one of the subjects of this post, is something I had to ask my mother about. I was not sure when they did this, because we are not seeing much wheat these days.

Drought Stressed Corn Western Tennessee/Kentucky Border
Corn, Drought2012, click to enlarge. Or not. It’s pretty sad.

Drought soybeans
soybeans, Drought2012, click to enlarge.

A Kernel of Wheat
Western Missouri, 1932

Of all farming activities we performed during the Great Depression of the 1930s, two were notable because they involved the whole community: thrashing of the wheat, and butchering the animals. Summer thrashing of the wheat was the most exciting time of the year because it was a social time rolled into sustenance activity.

The thrashing machine, or, in modern spelling, threshing machine (or simply thresher), was a machine first invented by Scottish mechanical engineer Andrew Meikle for use in agriculture. It was invented (c.1784) for the separation of grain from stalks and husks. For thousands of years, grain was separated by hand with flails, and was very laborious and time consuming. Mechanization of this process took much of the drudgery out of farm labour.

Source.
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Old Horse Drawn Corn Planter
old horse drawn corn planter by Colbyt69, creative commons, flickr.

This is a true story from the Great Depression as told by Letty Owings, age 87. It is a true account of various farming tasks during the historic drought years of the mid-1930s.

Seasonal Farming Tasks in the Great Depression

In the spring of each year, the community farmers watched the sky and talked with each other in church about when to prepare the fields for planting. For corn, the fields had to be plowed and harrowed, and then the rows were set. The implements used to plow, break up and smooth the soil and form rows were horse-drawn. After the fields were prepared for planting, corn planters were also hitched to horses. A container on the corn planter was set to click open every three feet or so, and release three kernels of corn to the soil. So far, we are talking about mechanization.

The mechanization ended after the planting of the kernels. The next task involved human hands that belonged to kids, for the most part. Once the corn plants were about two inches tall, the kids in the community crawled up and down the corn rows, inspecting each three-plant corn hill, taking visual inventory. We crawled down each row with a knife and a bucket of kernels, to see if three plants were in each cluster. Less than three plants in a hill meant that there was a cutworm in the soil, dining. We dug and chopped the worm, and replaced the eaten kernel with the new kernel. This task was called “replanting the corn,” and if you were a kid, you got that assignment. Replanting the corn was labor intensive and ritually performed every year. In church, farmers would ask each other, “Did you replant your corn yet?”

Cutworm (Noctuinae) caterpillar
Cutworm photo by Futureman1 on creative commons, flickr.

Another task where fingers did the work was ridding each individual potato plant in any given field of the potato bugs. Potato bugs are fat with orange stripes, and they can completely decimate a field of potatoes. We crawled up and down the rows with a tin can of coal oil that served as our insecticide at the time. We looked at each leaf, picked off the bugs and the masses of eggs, and dropped them into the can of coal oil. These were days before pesticides. In addition to coal oil for the bugs, we rubbed coal oil and bacon grease on our skin to keep the chiggers away. Again, our fingers did the work and like replanting the corn, potato bug removal was extremely labor intensive.

Potato Beetle
Potato Beetle by BugMan50 on flickr, creative commons

We were also always bottling the lambs. I do not ever remember a year when we weren’t nursing baby lambs behind the stove in the house. There was always a mama who had triplets or twins she didn’t like or that were born early in the cold, and we brought the orphans into the house and fed them out of bottles with rubber nipples. The lambs were tame and very hungry and they got strong in a hurry. They would butt their little heads against you, and when they were old enough to run, we sent them back to mama. We always had an area behind the stove fixed for the bottling of the lambs.

Perhaps the most difficult but the most pleasing job I did on the farm during those years was a winter job. In the off-season we repaired the gunny sacks for the wheat. There was no time to do this job in the summer; nobody had time to patch their sacks while tending to crops. Since we could not have the gunny sacks in the house, we would sit in the barn and patch the sacks using heavy thread and darning needles.

Patching the gunny sacks was hard work and the barn was always cold, but the good side of the job was that I got to spend time with my dad. He would tell me stories and teach me moral lessons, and this was the time of year that I got to spend quality time with my father.

Also, we never worked on Sundays. My parents were Evangelical (not to be confused with evangelism), and they thought that it was a sin to work on Sundays. While we went to church when we could, we often did not go because we did not have the gas for the old car (although my dad sometimes took gas from the tractor), or because my mother did not have a dress for church. My mother took a nap on Sunday afternoons, but since my dad never napped, I got to spend more quality time with him on these days. He wanted me to know how to identify every tree and every bird, and during our Sunday afternoon walks we gathered walnuts and hickory nuts. My dad did not want me to miss any of the trees in the area, so on one of the rare occasions that we rode in the car, he stopped the car so that he could show me a wild cherry tree.

One day, we had a contest in the county to see who could identify the most leaves, and I won. I won a bible, because my kind and patient father had taught me to be a markings expert.

Dust
photo by Robb North on creative commons, flickr

This is a true story from the Great Depression, as told by Letty Owings, age 87. It is a true account of days on a small Western Missouri farm during the drought of the 1930s.

Days on the Farm in 1934

Mom had malaria fever and we had to have her outside. Old Doc Martin, the county doctor, had visited and given my mother quinine. He told us that we had to keep her cool, and that we had to have a block of ice. On the rare occasions that Doc Martin visited, he left with a chicken because we had no money to pay him. Sometimes, he politely declined to take a chicken.

After the doctor left with his chicken, we decided to move outside because we did not have ten cents to buy a block of ice for Mom. The farm houses during the Great Depression had small windows because there was no insulation and no such thing as double-paned windows. Some rooms in the farm houses had no windows at all; there was no breeze in the house. We had no electricity and no fan.

We moved a mattress outside to underneath a tree for Mom. Pop and I moved our comfort and pillows outside as well, and we stayed next to her. We did not have mattresses. There was only the three of us now because my siblings were older and they were gone. That left Mom, Pop and I to tend to the farm. Mom was born in 1889 and was now 45 years old. I was nine. My responsibility now was to care for Mom and for the small animals on the farm. Pop told me not to worry about the big animals, so, during the day, Pop tended to the fields and to the cows and horses, and I tended to Mom and to the chickens, ducks and geese.

On her mattress, Mom would rave and cry and thrash. She was out of her mind and she didn’t know me. She had a roaring fever and there was nowhere to get cool. It did not rain that year until the first snow fell in the fall. Since we did not have ice, I would lower rags in a bucket on a rope into the well to cool them, and then I would wash Mom’s face and hands with the cool rags. We shared the well with the snakes that had gravitated there out of thirst. The well was our refrigerator.

During that summer, also know as a historic Dust Bowl year, we had 53 days that exceeded 100 degrees. Today, every acre is planted, but back then there were not as many roots in the soil to stabilize it; the wind roiled up large clouds of dust. Every living thing on the farm was thirsty, and while my dad was in the fields I dipped well water for the chickens, ducks and geese, and also for Mom. We lived like this, just surviving, hour after hour, day after day. My mom was so sick there were days she didn’t remember.

One day, I thought my mom had died. She was unresponsive to me, and I was so scared. I ran, terrified, to my dad, who was plowing with the mule on the back forty (literally). Pop tied the reins- the mule was a good mule- he wouldn’t go anywhere- Pop tied the reins onto the mule and we both ran back to Mom on her mattress. I was too young to see my mother suffer and die like this under my care. I was so scared because I was responsible for her and if she died I had only myself to blame. Seeing my mother like that haunts and saddens me to this day.

Mom was not dead. She was very hot. We shook her and rolled her and washed her face with cool rags from the well. Eventually she recovered and learned to walk again, but the malaria symptoms recurred in the following years.

During those hot and dry days on the farm, it wasn’t just me and Mom. All of the animals were thirsty and hot- the cows, calves, horses,chickens, ducks and geese- I dipped the well water for them all. My dad was a saint. He never got angry and he never asked for help with the big animals. He told me not to worry, he’d take care of the cows and horses. Pretty much all we had to eat was cornbread, and Pop often made the cornbread out of cornmeal, soured milk and flour in the mornings. At some point, he was able to save enough to get some coal oil burners.

Mom lay on her mattress in her ragged dress and she cried. Pop washed her face and held her hands. His real name was Olando John, and there was never a better man the good Lord ever made.

note: The Dust Bowl years were three consecutive years of drought during the Great Depression. On the description “53 days over 100,” go here to view historic records compared to present day.

Malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes and caused by a protist. More here.

Also, the picture above has the following caption and description:

Dust

The human crisis was documented by photographers, musicians, and authors, many hired by various federal agencies. The Farm Security Administration hired numerous photographers, giving Dorothea Lange her start, in which she made a name for herself while capturing the impact of the storms and families of migrants. The work of independent artists such as folk singer Woody Guthrie and novelist John Steinbeck grew out of the events of the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.