Great Depression and Violet Sharp

Dear Cast (etc),

I have struggled in my research for the time period this play is set in for one primary reason-it is hard to find record for the upper class people during the Depression because, frankly, they were not affected like the low and middle class people were. I don’t want to go into super detail with the basics of the time period because it is something that we probably all know, but just in case, here is what you need to know in relation to our show.

When the market crashed in October 1929 it causes loss of wages and prices in goods, such as food, to fall to about half their previous cost. This really hit industry and business hard and so jobs were eliminated and reduced, wages were reduced, and costs increased (or at least stayed in the previous position even though the value of money fell drastically). This hit all the classes but hurt the working class the most because there were no jobs for anyone, and they couldn’t afford the basics of life. For example, I was reading today about the Depression in the Bronx (not exactly Englewood) and families would continually be evicted by cops and groups of men from the neighborhoods would immediately move their things back into the apartments. The people demanded lowered rent… there are pictures of people with signs that say “Lower rent by $1.00 per month”.  They also couldn’t afford food, in many cases, and so used breadlines and government issued vouchers for goods to obtain food. Most middle class businesses didn’t survive the Depression either unless they could provide enough services to hold a monopoly over an area. (Think of Dorthea Lange’s Migrant Mother photograph.)

Little of this would have affected the day to day life of the Lindbergh’s, and nothing would have affected the Morrows. The Morrows were one of the countries richest families and had twenty-nine domestic servants working for them in 1932. The Lindbergh family had three. The domestic servants had good jobs in the rich household, with sleeping quarters, a sitting room, and daily meals. And, as far as sources imply, their employment was pleasant.

What could affect the domestics, however, would be the possibility of them losing their job and not being able to get another job. Regardless of the terrible market, in which they likely could not find employment, if they lost their good recommendation from Mrs. Morrow, they could never find work. At the time, England was worse off than the U.S. economically, so returning home, shamed or not, was a worthless option. This drives much of the action of Septimus and Violet. He was already fired a handful of times but brought back by Mrs. Morrow- a pregnancy could push that over the edge and/or ruin his reputation as a good head of the domestic staff. Likewise, Violet was afraid that her sexual activities as well as her illegal speakeasy secrets could get her into very similar trouble. This is a serious motivator, as the loss of a job at the Morrow household would likely mean that the domestic couldn’t find work and thus couldn’t survive, in addition to being shamed.

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