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We are also told that such was a legal and common practice in the 1930s, yet not a single source is cited to support these claims, nor could we find external evidence to corroborate them.The image, mysterious as it is, does not appear to depict a patient in an mental institution.The typical woman in the 1930s had a husband who was still employed, although he had probably taken a pay cut to keep his job; if the man lost his job, the family often had enough resources to survive without going on relief or losing all its possessions. Women “made do” by substituting their own labor for something that previously had been bought with cash or by practicing petty economies like buying day-old bread or warming several dishes in the oven to save gas.Living so close to the edge, women prayed that no catastrophic accident or illness would swamp their tight budgets. “We just did what had to be done one day at a time.” In many ways men and women experienced the Depression differently.
Historian Susan Ware writes: “We didn’t go hungry, but we lived lean.” That expression sums up the experiences of many American families during the 1930s: they avoided stark deprivation but still struggled to get by.We found no evidence suggesting that it was of American origin, or that it depicts a patient undergoing “smile therapy” in a mental institution.We judge the claim that women were institutionalized and made to wear fake smiles to make them happier housewives in the 1930s as false.But again, this all took place after World War II, not during the 1930s when the photograph in question was allegedly taken.Unhappiness wasn’t considered a gender issue during the Depression.