How does tragedy impact the human experience? By: Alex Coley

The tragedy of the stock market crash of October 1929 greatly impacted the human experience. This tragedy impacted citizens in four main aspects of life. One aspect of life in which tragedy affected experience is home life.

1920s Home Life

At home, many people listened to the radio for entertainment.

In the 1920s, people did not spend much time at home in the city. People partied late, watched movies/plays, and went to sporting events. They did listen to the radio at home. However, in rural areas, much time was spent at home. They continued to follow traditional ways, which led to minimal free time and extra work.

Home Life-Hoovervilles

Because American citizens fell into poverty, many people were forced to live in Hoovervilles, which consist of poor homes and unsanitary conditions.

In the 1930s, the wealthy stayed the same, and were affected very little. The middle class had to “make do” by cutting corners to complete tasks. The poor had to get food from free soup kitchens, lived in Hoovervilles with unsanitary conditions, and frequently migrated to find a better life. They didn’t find work often, so they rode the rails looking for work. They found work camps for public projects that paid little.

Home Life-Women

Women deserted by their husbands struggled during the depression.

Women and African Americans were affected the most. In the 1920s, women earned the right to vote. They also felt free to express themselves. They rebelled against traditional female behavior and apparel and wore what they wished. Being a housewife returned in the 1930s. Women weren’t hired much. When they did acquire jobs, they were more often laid off than men.

Home Life-African Americans

African Americans struggled to find work in the 1930s.

African Americans also had a tough time. Despite the resurgence of the KKK and frequent lynching, the Twenties were a time of cultural celebration for blacks. They were not afraid to express their feelings through music and art. In the 1930s, they had trouble finding work. “Last hired, first fired” was an expression used to describe the time. Minorities struggled at home in the depression.

1920s Leisure Time

Many men, women, and teens partied in the 1920s. Teens wanted to be free of parental restrictions, and adults wanted to party away the sorrows of the war.

From the 1920s, leisure time activities changed in the 1930s. The 1920s provided and endless supply of free time due to the new innovation that made life easier. Prohibition slightly impacted free time, as people still drank, but it was harder to attain liquor.

1930s Leisure Time

During the depression, many citizens turned on the radio for a fireside chat, or just for entertainment.

The 1930s were relatively similar, except the radio was more frequently used for Roosevelt’s “fireside chats.”

Leisure Time-1930s Women

In the 1930s, many women continued to dance to music to forget the struggles of the depression. However, many women returned to their old duties as housewives.

Women were also affected in this category, as well as farmers. Women’s leisure time was continuously filled with dancing and music, but they took on the additional role of being a housewife again. They cooked and cleaned at home more often.

Leisure Time-1930s Farmers

Farmers of the Great Depression fared better than others in some ways. They were still able to produce to feed their families.

Farmers also changed their activities. They worked to sell crops and tried to get rid of surpluses in the 1920s. One decade later, and they hope to create surpluses to be able to feed their families. They fared better than most, as they were able to produce food. Farmers and women changed their free time activities to accommodate for the struggles of the depression.

1920s Economy

Because of the booming economy, many people invested in the stock market.

The economy suffered tremendously in the 1930s compared to the 1920s. Although farmers struggled to sell surpluses, industrial growth, consumerism, and the booming stock market fueled the Twenties. However, billions of dollars were lost during the crash.

1930s Economy

Due to the lack of consumption, warehouses piled up with surplus products.

Farmers struggled again quite a bit because of the falling precipitation rates. Although Hoover donated money to private groups, FDR had a much larger impact by pumping billions into the economy. This lead to more future government regulation and more direct action on the people.


Because banks suffered from the crash, they were unable to pay everyone their savings.

Bankers and stockbrokers especially were affected. Stockbrokers were not trusted, as opposed to thriving in the Roaring Twenties. They could not pay debts and went bankrupt.

Economy-Business Owners

Business owners had trouble selling products and maintaining production.

Business owners also experienced a loss. They had to lay off workers in order to get by, which rose unemployment. Sales declined, and the minimum wage increased as hour limit decreased, forcing businesses to close. These two groups failed in the 1930s despite flourishing just a decade earlier. The preparation for WWII eventually lifted America out of the depression.

Role of Government-1920s

In the Roaring Twenties, the three republican presidents believed in a hands-off government policy when dealing with business.

Lastly, the role government played was huge in the live of farmers and Mexican immigrants. In the 1920s, the three republican presidents were Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover. They all believed in a laissez-faire policy, which kept government out of business, as long as business kept out of government.

Role of Government-1930s

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was determined to help out Americans and end the depression. In order to do this, he took more direct action on the people.

During the depression, Hoover believed that he should donate to private organizations that would help the community. He also cut veterans of their bonuses they were to receive. FDR believed that he should act more directly on the people, and that would help boost the economy. His New Deal programs were categorized into relief, recovery, and reform. People began to look to the government for support.

Role of Government-Farmers

Many people were provided jobs through public works projects. Farmers often took these jobs. These projects included planting trees to prevent dust storms and to preserve natural areas.

Farmers and Mexicans were especially affected. The farming troubles of the 1920s were virtually ignored, but government intervention helped farmers in the Great Depression. They were provided jobs through public works projects. They received checks to pay debts and taxes.

Role of Government-Mexican Immigrants

Mexican Immigrants were provided housing, food, and medicine through the FSA in the Great Depression. Many Mexicans were farmers, so this act affected them directly.

Mexican immigrants were commonly farmers, so the FSA provided that plus food, shelter, and medicine. However, they had deportation to worry about. Government intervened frequently in the lives of Mexicans and farmers. These four aspects of life affected certain groups more than others.

Ultimately, tragedy impacted the human experience for all but the wealthy during the Great Depression.

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