Nobody's Burden

Nobody's Burden : Lessons from the Great Depression on the Struggle for Old-age Security

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Nobody's Burden: Lessons on Old Age from the Great Depression is the first book-length study of the experience of old-age during the Great Depression. Part history, part social critique, the contributors rely on archival research, social history, narrative study and theoretical analysis to argue that Americans today, as in the past, need to rethink old-age policy and accept their shared responsibility for elder care. A must read for historians, gerontologists, and social more

Product details

  • Hardback | 378 pages
  • 162.56 x 231.14 x 33.02mm | 1,610.24g
  • Lexington Books
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 0739165313
  • 9780739165317

Review quote

Old people who are also poor are more or less forbidden to actualize any form of personal identity and are nonetheless punished for it, facing both casual and systematic discrimination. During the Great Depression, as today, many were arbitrarily denied adequate means of survival, even if family members or social workers came to their aid. Editors Ray (English, Wayne State Univ.) and Calasanti (sociology, Virginia Tech) have drawn on the archives of the Luella Hannan Memorial Home in Detroit, Michigan, to produce this narrowly focused but often-moving history. The contributors show how, between 1927 and 1933, the city's poor elderly banded together in support groups and endured years of humiliation and social stigma and how advocates spread awareness of their plight until it became one of the central political issues of the New Deal. The book traces dozens of intersecting story lines--many of them in first-person narratives, case notes, and letters--that together show how ageism in the US fails vulnerable people who seek only to eschew their own vulnerability. The parallels between their era and the contemporary world are uncanny and quite frightening. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. CHOICE As a gero-historian and grandchild of the Great Depression, who has experienced reversals of fortunes (economic and otherwise), I read Nobody's Burden with great admiration. Ruth Ray, Toni Calasanti, and their collaborators have mined archives to give us vivid history from the bottom up. They have recovered voices from the past which, richly informed by theory and narrative, should heighten our common resolve to fight sexism and ageism as we care for the needy. -- W. Andrew Achenbaum, University of Houston Located in a particular time and a particular place, this unique interdisciplinary study reaches out across the years and across the globe to illuminate and inform our understanding of who might care for, and about, old people in the twenty-first century. Couched firmly within a tradition of feminist gerontology, it is a riveting and evocative exploration of what it was like to live into old age during the Great Depression. Marrying detailed archival research with perspectives drawn from anthropology, English studies, communication, sociology, political science and social work, the editors and contributors paint a vivid picture which resonates all too often with current preoccupations: at times disconcertingly, at others poignantly. This 'living story' will speak to everyone concerned with the ethics of elder care, social justice and the need for policy reform. -- Miriam Bernard, Keele Universityshow more

About Ruth E. Ray

Ruth E. Ray is professor of English/liberal arts at Wayne State University. Toni Calasanti is professor of sociology at Virginia more

Table of contents

Chapter 1: Studying the 'Burden' of Age: The Work of the Hannan Archival Research Group Part 2 Part I: The Burden of Age in the Great Depression Chapter 3 Chapter 2: Public Response to the Needs of Old People Chapter 4 Chapter 3: Private Response to the Needs of Old People Part 5 Part II: This Old Man and That Old Woman Chapter 6 Client Sketches Part 7 Part III: Old Age in Hard Times Chapter 8 Chapter 4: The Multiple Roles of Social Workers in the Great Depression Chapter 9 Chapter 5: Resisting Dependence and Burden: On Refusing to Become a 'Little Old Lady' Chapter 10 Chapter 6: Privileged but Pensioned? How Two Formerly Well-Off Women Experienced Receiving Aid Chapter 11 Chapter 7: What is Held Dear: Personhood and Material Culture in Old Age Chapter 12 Chapter 8: Race, Class, Gender and the Social Construction of 'Burden' in Old Age Chapter 13 Chapter 9: The Haunting Fear: Narrative Burdens in the Great Depression Part 14 Part IV: Rethinking the 'Burden' of Age Chapter 15 Chapter 10: Reflections on Ageism: Perspective of a Septuagenarianon the Avoidance of Burdenhood Chapter 16 Chapter 11: The Continuing Struggle for Old-Age Security Chapter 17 Chapter 12: Toward a Future When We Truly Care for Old People Chapter 18 Afterword: From Charity to Careshow more