Harvest Gypsies - Glossary of Cultural References

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Cultural References | Key Terms and Concepts | Major Themes


Associated Farmers, Inc.1930s photograph of migrant family

An organization of California's corporate farmers founded in 1934 to oppose labor strikes and the organization efforts of farm laborers.


Term for lone migrant workers who primarily made up the agricultural migrant labor force in the 1920s. George and Lennie in Of Mice and Men (1937) are "bindlestiffs."

Box Bill (1925) and Harris Bill (1926)

Legislation proposed to limit the importation of Mexican workers. Both were defeated, primarily through the opposition of California growers who supported the widespread use of a cheap Mexican labor force.

Bracero Program

Diplomatic agreement instituted between America and Mexico in 1942 to allow for the importation of Mexican agricultural workers.

Burlingame Treaty of 1868

The United States signed this treaty with China in order to regulate Chinese immigration. The U.S. later passed the Chinese Exclusion Acts (1882-1904) to severely restrict Chinese immigration into the United States.

Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC)

Work-relief program created as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal legislation. It was designed to combat unemployment during the Great Depression by providing jobs for unemployed men.

Criminal Syndicalism Law

Law passed in 1919 designed to punish those who attempted to advocate, teach, aid, or abet unlawful acts or use terror tactics and violence as a means of changing industrial ownership or bringing about political change.

The Confederation of Mexican Labor Unions

Union organized in Los Angeles in 1927 to support widespread organization of Mexican agricultural labor. Corporate growers came down hard against the union.


Name for unskilled Asian laborers hired for mere subsistence wages.

Farm Security Administration/Resettlement Administration

Established in 1935 under the New Deal in order to combat rural poverty and bring relief to the impoverished migrant workers flooding into California during the 1930s.

Federal Camps

President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Resettlement Administration in 1935 to set up federal migratory labor camps. Twenty-five camps were planned, but only fifteen were actually built or under construction by 1940. Support for the camps waned greatly after the start of WW II.


The National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry, founded in 1867 as a part of the agrarian movement, intended to serve the political needs of farmers.

Imperial Valley Associated Farmers Group

Conglomerate of large growers in Imperial Valley, California.

The John Steinbeck Committee to Aid Agricultural Organization

Formed in 1938 to help the farm workers of California. The Committee was organized by Helen Gahagan Douglas (the Hollywood actress who would later be elected to the U.S. Congress).

National Labor Board

Independent federal administration created in 1933 under the New Deal to mitigate labor disputes.


Site of ruined pea crop in California in 1936, which left hundreds of migrants hungry and further destitute as the majority of them spent all of their resources to get there to pick the crop.


A wasting disease brought on by Vitamin B3 deficiency.

Salinas Valley Vigilante Raid

In 1934, 3000 Filipino lettuce pickers went on strike near Salinas. Special deputies put down the strike.

San Joaquin Valley Cotton Strike

A 24-day strike in 1933 that began when wages for picking cotton were reduced to 60 cents per hundred pounds. The strike ended after at least three strikers were killed. A compromise wage of 75 cents per hundred pounds was negotiated.

Simon J. Lubin Society

Society named after a reformer who advocated for farm workers' rights and dedicated to the cause of improving the living conditions of migrant labor. In 1938, the organization published Steinbeck's articles from the San Francisco News series in pamphlet form as Their Blood is Strong.

"Starvation under the Orange Trees"

An additional article Steinbeck wrote about the migrants' experiences with winter floods in California. Both the San Francisco News and Life Magazine rejected it because they considered it "too liberal" (Benson 371). Eventually Steinbeck was able to get it printed in the Monterey Trader in 1938 and it was included as the final chapter of Their Blood Is Strong, the pamphlet version of The Harvest Gypsies published by the Lubin Society. An editorial note accompanied the Trader article:

It is the desire of the author to dedicate this article to his friends, the migratory workers who harvest California crops. He will not accept personal payment in any form for this piece of writing. If any money, either direct payment or donations from persons who read this, is forthcoming, it is his desire that such contributions be made to a fund under responsible management and distributed therefrom to assist worthy families among the group. (qtd. in DeMott 1066)

State Relief Administration

Succeeded the State Emergency Relief Administration in 1935. Both agencies were created in California in order to combat the growing poverty fueled by the Great Depression.

Their Blood Is Strong

The news articles that comprise The Harvest Gypsies, which Steinbeck allowed the Lubin Society to publish in pamphlet form in 1938 in order to raise public awareness of migrant workers' exceedingly poor working conditions. The pamphlet takes its title from Steinbeck's description of the migrants resiliency: "They have weathered the thing, and they can weather much more for their blood is strong" (Harvest Gypsies 22). Ma Joad expresses this sentiment as well in The Grapes of Wrath (1939).

The Tydings-McDuffie Philippine Island Independence Act

Passed in 1934, this act opened the way to deporting Filipinos already in the U.S. and excluding further Filipino immigrants.

Yellow Peril

Term for unfounded paranoia by Westerners of the threat of "yellow" peoples (Asian or Easterners) in the early twentieth century; led to many racist laws and policies responsible for immigration quotas and the mass deportation of Asian workers living in the United States.

Setting | Character Summaries| Plot Synopsis | Critical Reception
Cultural References | Key Terms and Concepts | Major Themes