Arthur Rothstein/Library of Congress

Squatters' shacks along the Willamette River in Portland, Ore., July 1936.

Profiles: Martha Rutherford

Saturday, December 24th, 2011 

Born 1935
Portland, Ore. 

Her mother and grandfather both kept gardens, cultivating both their yards and vacant lots in the neighborhood. 

He grew a lot. He really had a big garden over there, and everything was canned or dried, preserved in some way, salted, whatever. 

Peas, beans, corn, squash, tomatoes. I can remember all my grandfather’s corn. I used to run down the cornrows. And then we picked. We didn’t have fruit trees, but we went out and picked, and then my mom would stand me on a stool and I could help skin the peaches when she brought them out of the water, and pit the cherries. 

There’s a pretty renowned college in Portland, called Reed College, and we were at the southern end of that neighborhood where Reed College is. There are some very big houses in that neighborhood, but we were in a small house. On part of the grounds of Reed College there was a big cherry orchard, and we went over, and my dad would put me at the bottom of the tree. They had ladders in the orchard, and they were pie cherries, and he would climb the ladder with a bucket on a rope, and when he’d fill the bucket he’d hand it down to me and I’d put in it the big peach basket. We’d pick pie cherries, and my mother would can pie cherries. 

Interview by Kat Aaron

This profile was produced with help from sources in the Public Insight Network from American Public Media.

What Went Wrong

Donald Barlett and James Steele are revisiting America: What Went Wrong, their landmark 1991 newspaper series, in a new project with the Investigative Reporting Workshop. Over the next year, the project team will examine how four decades of public policy has shaped America's ongoing economic crisis.


Back Story

The authors talk about What Went Wrong

Donald Barlett and James Steele talk about the project, and why they decided to revisit a book they wrote two decades ago, in a series of video clips produced by the Workshop.

Nation's Story

Who pays the taxes?

Who pays the taxes?

We feature charts, maps, photos and other visualizations that reflect the state of the economy as part of our What Went Wrong project. This column chart shows the growing disparity between what individuals and corporations pay in taxes. In the 1950s, the difference was 22 percent. Recent figures show the difference is 62 percent.

Rags to rags: Economic mobility hard to come by

New Pew Center on States report confirms that moving up the American economic ladder is difficult, even though most people have more income than their parents.

Homelessness takes it toll on Florida's youngest

Florida, as a center of the housing boom, still struggles to recover from the Great Recession. Financial stresses and widespread foreclosures have placed families in precarious situations, resulting in a spike in child homelessness. Susannah Nesmith reports in the Broward Bulldog.

Older workers face challenges in Silicon Valley

An advanced degree and experience in the tech sector should be a ticket to a job in today's economy. But older workers in the heart of the new economy, Silicon Valley, are finding their resume is not the issue. Aaron Glantz reports in The Bay Citizen.

 Subscribe to the RSS Feed

Read an Excerpt

The Betrayal of the American Dream on Google Books

The Betrayal of the American Dream on Google Books

Check out the first chapter of Barlett and Steele's 2012 book here.