Thursday, December 1, 2022

Thoughts on the Sewing Rooms

A celebration of women was held in Indiana on May 17, 1936, sponsored by the WPA.  I often wonder about the women who worked in the Sewing Rooms.  For many of them, it was the first time their work was praised and valued enough to earn a living.  One woman interviewed years afterwards stated:

"I remember when I went to work in a WPA sewing room making clothing for the needy, I received $5.80 for 18 hours a week work.  It was a turning point in my life, for better living,  I felt, after years of struggle, when if you didn't have a job, you didn't eat.  By 1938, our wages went up gradually to $48 a month.  Wonderful at that time!"

Because all the women faced the same economic hardship, I often think there must have been an amazing comradery among the ladies.  Although many rooms closed only 2 years after opening, some remained open and would go on to work for war efforts.

Many of the rooms were liquidated after our entrance into the war but some were placed under the management of the Army and Navy making uniforms and other war effort items.  Eventually the program was closed as women assumed better paying jobs in factories and defense jobs.

The skills these women learned would enable them to not only create a quilt but upcycle what garments they already had before the war (see here).  An interesting article you may wish to read is here about how the New Deal helped the war effort.

Sometimes there were problems.  In 1935, two Utah men were arrested for stealing quilts from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration.  Sometimes the needy of the day had problems getting what they needed like the old man who was looking for a quilt in Greenville, SC and sent to a variety of offices before finally receiving one.  But for the most part, the good this group did far outweighed any problems.  If you are still interested in this topic, I suggest checking out this website.

Tomorrow is Friendship Friday and if you have any Depression era foods/meals that were handed down in your family, please consider sharing them at

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