The Great Depression for Kids
For Kids - What was the Great Depression?
The period from 1929 to 1941 was a time when America's economy was not working. Many banks failed, many people lost their homes, and many farmers lost their farms. The Great Depression was worldwide, although it hit the USA the hardest and the longest. Although there had been devastating economic depressions in U.S. history before, the 1930s depression was the most devastating, affecting over half of the population, both rich and poor, from all cultural backgrounds and all religions, in both urban and rural sections of the country. It was called the Great Depression, not because things were great but because things were ruinous for so many people.
When Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president in 1932, he assumed the presidency at the height of the Great Depression. In the prior three years, since the depression began, President Herbert Hoover had not successfully done much to turn things around. In March 1933, when FDR began his first four-year term as president, there were 13,000,000 people unemployed. The number was actually higher since married women who lost their jobs were not considered unemployed, and higher still as many of those lucky enough to be "employed" were reduced to part-time schedules. Almost every bank had failed. Massive numbers of people had lost their homes and businesses. Long lines formed at the soup kitchens. Men left in search of work and were gone for months. Hoovervilles, communities of homeless living in cardboard boxes, had sprung up across the country. It was a devastating time for many millions of families, with no hope in sight.
During his first 100 days in office, FDR and Congress introduced 50 new laws and sweeping reforms called the "The New Deal". FDR used his "Fireside Chats" on the radio to keep people informed and encouraged. As the New Deal programs were implemented, things did improve. But the Great Depression did not end. New Deal programs were expanded. More programs were added. And then more. And more. Some programs were a waste of Congressional funding, but others were excellent. The Great Depression did not end until World War II. The need for soldiers and armaments and uniforms helped to put the slowly recovering economy back on its feet.
1930's Life on the Farm during the Great Depression
Not everyone felt the effects of the depression in the same manner. People who had little to begin with had always coped.