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Using Women's History Sources in the Archives at the Library of Virginia

Works Progress Administration Life Histories Collection

The WPA Life Histories Collection includes approximately 1,350 life histories, youth studies, and more than 50 interviews with formerly enslaved individuals written between 1938 and 1941 by the Virginia Writers' Project. The histories detail the struggle of women to support themselves and their families during the Depression. Interviewer Maude R. Chandler describes the lives of two aspiring beauticians in Appalachia, while Essie Wade Smith chronicles the struggle of a battered mother of five. Another desperate woman reports her husband, a WPA laborer, for abandonment. Some of the life histories are included in Talk About Trouble: A New Deal Portrait of Virginians in the Great Depression (Chapel Hill, 1996) and Weevils in the Wheat: Interviews with Virginia Ex-Slaves (Charlottesville, 1976).