Women on the Breadlines

A collection of short essays by Meridel Le Sueur representing the stories of women she met during the Depression. I caught wind of this work via A Square Meal: Culinary History of the Depression and wanted to know more about the nearly invisible presence of women in breadlines and other public assistance facilities. “A woman will shut herself up in room until it is taken away form her, and eat a cracker a day and be as quiet as a mouse so there are no social statistics concerning her.”

It’s one of the great mysteries of the city where women go when they are out of work and hungry. There are not many women in the bread line. There are no flop houses for women as there are for men, where a bed can be had for a quarter or less. You don’t see women lying on the floor at the mission in the free flops. They obviously don’t sleep in the jungle or under newspapers in the park. There is no law I suppose against their being in those places but the fact is they rarely are. Yet there must be as many women out of jobs in cities and suffering extreme poverty as there are men. What happens to them? Where do they go? Try to get into the Y.W. without any money or looking down at heel. Charities take care of very few and only those that are called “deserving.” The lone girl is under suspicion by the virgin women who dispense charity.