The Great Depression of the 1930s affected all of America—even the glamorous studios of Hollywood. Box office receipts plummeted, and studios made deep cuts in their workforces. We see photos of men in breadlines and men lining up for jobs wearing signs that say, My children are starving. But workingwomen suffered too, and not only from the job insecurity of the Great Depression. They also frequently faced harassment and discrimination.
The heroine in my novel Code Name Edelweiss is Liesl Weiss—a single mother and stenographer in the MGM studio offices who didn’t have the support from laws against harassment in the workplace. Suggestive jokes and comments, pats, pinches, and unwanted advances were common in those days. In fact, a workingwoman was expected to go along with a certain amount of teasing and “good-natured” fun that today would be unacceptable. In the Great Depression—with jobs for men scarce and jobs for women even scarcer—complaints or accusations could get a workingwoman fired.
As I researched workingwomen in Depression-era Hollywood for Code Name Edelweiss, I found there was also widespread discrimination against women in the workforce. In the 1930s, men were considered the breadwinners of the family, and to take a job from a man and give it to a woman would be depriving a man the chance to support his family. What’s more, a workingwoman with children was often looked down upon as a neglectful mother. Even worse, a man’s pay would almost always be more than a woman’s in the same line of work.
Things have changed for the better in the workplace with laws against sexual harassment and discrimination. But as we saw recently in the Me Too movement, women still have difficulties in Hollywood and in workplaces around the country. In Code Name Edelweiss, we see Liesl Weiss courageously face the harassment and discrimination that was rampant in 1930s Hollywood—while at the same time facing down the Nazi threat in her own backyard.
“Code Name Edelweiss” novel releases on March 7th, 2023.
Learn more about Stephanie Landsem by visiting her official website, stephanielandsem.com
A Special Thanks to Stephanie Landsem and Tyndale House Publishers for the exclusive article and images.