In 1940 Mary Effie Morrison Slade, a widow aged 61, was living at 416 Randolph Street
near downtown Portsmouth, Virginia. This was the same house where she lived in 1935, which tells me she had moved there between 1930 and 1935. Maybe the move was driven by finances because the house she rented in 1930, just a street away, was $20 a month. The “new” house, which rented for $11 a month, was next door to her sister Effie and her husband Henry Hanrahan. Isn’t it funny that she and her sister both had the name “Effie”?
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Grandma Slade, born in Tennessee, had completed 5 years of school. During her married life, she was always the wife of a farmer, but now she was a working woman employed in the government-sponsored WPA sewing project. The specific job appears to be “Iron lady,” but the handwriting is unclear. Her statement that she was unemployed for 65 weeks prior to March 1940 contradicts the statement that she worked 52 weeks in 1939 earning $780. She claimed no other source of income.
|from New Deal Network|
This is NOT where Mary Slade worked, but it is a typical
sewing project factory or workroom.
The Work Project Administration (WPA) was part of the New Deal effort to put people to work. The sewing project was specifically designed for women who were considered unemployed heads of household either because they were widowed, abandoned, or disabled. The sewing project was the lowest paid position, but women received training in using sewing machines. They made clothing, bedding, and supplies for hospitals and orphanages. Grandma Slade is the first ancestor I’ve found who was employed under the New Deal.
Living with my great-grandmother were her 2 daughters, Margaret (32) and Mary (30). Margaret is listed as married with a correction indicating she was divorced or in the process, but she is listed as Slade, not Turner, her married name. She worked as a cuffer for a hosiery mill, earning $312 in 26 weeks in 1939. Mary was not working nor was she seeking work; instead, she was taking care of the house. Mary completed 7 years of school while Margaret completed one year of high school.
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The 1940 census has told me more about my great-grandmother than I ever knew before. We have no pictures of anyone from that side of the family beyond my grandparents. Pity.