At a Century of Progress: 1920-1950

Teachers Level Three

Learning Goals and Objectives--Grades 9 - 12

Voices and Choices--Bonnie Johnson
Note: It is a good idea to print Level Three for easy reference.

Voices and Choices

Bonnie Johnson is the sole provider for her family after her father loses his job in 1931 and is unable to regain it due to the Depression. She must decide whether to marry her fiancé, Chuck, now or to wait until he is making enough money to support her and help her parents out financially.


These themes can be explored with either a social studies or language arts curriculum. Use these themes to tie in other resources to your class discussion, i.e., other books, other cultures, students' own lives.


What do you think?

These questions, which come at the end of each story (minus "the answer"), can be used to start class discussions or be assigned as homework.

What is the significance of October 29, 1929, Black Teusday? See Timeline Timeline

On October 29, 1929, the U.S. stock market plummeted and the U.S. lost 30 billion dollars. In that one day the U.S. stock markets lost as much as the U.S. government had spent on World War I.

What hardships do you imagine Bonnie and her family face now that hers is the only household income?

We don't know what kind of income Bonnie's father earned at Monarch Electric. We can only assume that to lose the father's income was an economic setback for this family. They were lucky in that the parents owned their home in Oak Park. Bonnie's meager salary of $100 a month could be used for food, utilities, and emergencies.

What sacrifices does Bonnie have to make for her parents?

Bonnie continues to live at home. She works and gives her salary to her mother, who manages the household. Economically, they work together as a team. We can only imagine that they gave each other emotional and psychological support as well.

Can you describe her lifestyle? What does she do for fun? What kind of person does she seem to be?

Bonnie lives at home, works at the public library and sees her fiancé every weekend. They go out Saturday night to a movie or to the theater, and on Sunday they stay at home. She seems to be a loyal daughter and girlfriend. In many ways, she seems mature for her age, having accepted the responsibility for financially supporting her parents and putting off her own desire to marry.

What do you imagine your lifestyle will be like when you reach your 20s?

This could lead to a good discussion about how lifestyles have changed from Bonnie's time. Some students may expect to be very independent in their 20s while others may see themselves in college or graduate school, still depending on their parent's financial help.

Why doesn't Bonnie want to get married? How is her parent's well-being wrapped up in her decision? Would you make such a sacrifice for your parents?

Students' answers will probably vary. Some students may already be helping their family out financially. Other students may not have considered having to take responsibility one day for their parents' well-being. This kind of role-reversal, where the child becomes responsible for the parent and the parent depends on the child, may be very threatening to some students.

Do you think her decision to hold off getting married is a wise one? Was her decision based on emotion or on reason?

Bonnie seems to act on reason. She never really tells us how she feels emotionally.



These are suggested classroom activities and student projects that you may want to use with your students or as models to create your own.

The following activities analyze the private impact of public events

Each of these events affected the lives of nearly everyone in society. Are there contemporary events that have ramifications for everyone? Listed below are World Wide Web resources for the Great Depression and World War II. Remember to "bookmark" this website so you can easily return.

1. Oral Interview

The purpose of this interview is to find out what the Great Depression was like for people living at that time.

Interview your parents, grandparents, or older members of your community about the Great Depression and their memories of life at this time. You might ask them the following kinds of questions:

You can read other oral interviews with people who lived through the Depression at:
Remote Link

2. What is Prohibition?

Compare the impact of Prohibition of the 1920s to the contemporary prohibition on drugs. You can present your comparison in a number of ways:

3. What is poverty?

Compare the financial hardship of the Johnsons with the relative security of your own family. With the main income earner out of work, the Johnsons fell into near poverty. How near or far are you from poverty?

What if the main earner in your family became disabled, unemployed, or somehow incapable of work. How long could your family continue in your present lifestyle? What adjustments would you have to make to your family budget?

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