Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Women Are Hungry"

Let others sing of the hungry pain of Life,
Let others sing of the hungry pain of love,
I will sing of the hungry pain of hunger.

            Meridel Le Seur provides a voice to the voiceless in her 1934 works entitled “Women are Hungry.” Le Sueur became the chronicler of women’s lives, often overlooked in accounts of the Great Depression, writing of their experiences in relief agencies and on the breadlines. “Women are Hungry” describes the harsh realities of poverty, starvation, and sexual abuse—of the lives of working-class women during the Depression and their survival by means of supportive friendships and a shared, communal life. In the stories she published in the thirties in such literary magazines as Scribner’s and Partisan Review, Le Sueur wrote treatments of both working- and middle-class women—their experiences of adolescence, marriage, sexuality, pregnancy, childbirth, motherhood, and widowhood.

            “The men are gone away from the family; the family is disintegrating; the women are trying to hold it together, because women have most to do with the vivid life of procreation, food, and shelter. Deprived of their participation in that, they are beggars.”

            In this literary piece Le Seur gives insight into the lives of women, from different walks of life. With each women having a story to tell, we are introduced to Anna, Anna’s mother, Mrs. Rose, Bernice, Mabel, Nancy, Fran, and Ethel. We become one with these characters as we follow their lives and hear their cries, as they struggle to survive in the face of trying times. For the sake of this presentation, I decided to focus in on two out of four stories. The first is entitled Old and Young Mothers, while the second is Moon Bums.

"Poverty is more personal to [women] than to men. The women looking for jobs of bumming on the road, or that you see waiting for a hand-out from the charities are already mental cases as well as physical ones. A man can always get drunk, or talk to other men, no matter how broken he is in body and spirit; but a women ten to one, will starve alonein a hall bed-room until she id thrown out, and then she will sleep alone in some alley until she is picked up.”

“Old and Young Mothers”

Anna is a cook and supports four people, her mother, sister, and two sons, on $45 a month. Her husband left three years ago to find a job in another city.

Mrs. Rose is an elderly woman who has raised six children whose whereabouts she has not known for four years, since they were out of a job. She tries to support herself by getting jobs as a housekeeper but has a hard time. Either she doesn’t get paid at all or the man tries to sleep with her.

Anna’s mother is a widow who was left to support her children by herself, scrubbing office buildings every night until five-thirty. She sent them all through high school, because in America education would lift them out of the physical labor of her class.

“I’ve worked all my life,…with these arms and hands and sent seven children through high school and now I can’t get enough to eat”

Moon Bums

Moon Bums is the vignette of two teenage girls who “had been traveling and mooching around the country for a year and a half” (Le Sueur 325). Fran and Ethel were “old hands”—“Workers kids [who] have graduated from poverty, sweat shops, machines, diets of pigs feet, stale hamburger and old bread” (Le Sueur 325). Before they set out to be on their own, Fran worked in a shirt factory since she was twelve at $ 1.97 for a five hour week, while Ethel went to eight grades in school and then worked as a learner in Connecticut …work[ing] for a dime a week…”(Le Sueur 325). This is the story of the cries of the lost children of the worker who lives hand to mouth.

“To be hungry is different than to count the hungry”.