ABOUT THIS BOOK
Making Choices, Making Do is a comparative study of Black and white working-class women’s survival strategies during the Great Depression. Based on analysis of employment histories and Depression-era interviews of 1,340 women in Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and South Bend and letters from domestic workers, Lois Helmbold discovered that Black women lost work more rapidly and in greater proportions. The benefits that white women accrued because of structural racism meant they avoided the utter destitution that more commonly swallowed their Black peers. When let go from a job, a white woman was more successful in securing a less desirable job, while Black women, especially older Black women, were pushed out of the labor force entirely. Helmbold found that working-class women practiced the same strategies, but institutionalized racism in employment, housing, and relief assured that Black women worked harder, but fared worse. Making Choices, Making Do strives to fill the gap in the labor history of women, both Black and white. The book will challenge the limits of segregated histories and encourage more comparative analyses.