Migrant Mother [1936]

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For many, this picture of Florence Owens Thompson (age 32) represents the Great Depression. She was the mother of 7 and she struggled to survive with her kids catching birds and picking fruits. Dorothea Lange took the picture after Florence sold her tent to buy food for her children. She made the first page of major newspapers all over the country and changed people’s conception about migrants.

Migrant Mother

Dorothea Lange
Source: life.com

11 thoughts on “Migrant Mother [1936]

  1. RE: Laughing Children.

    Lange actually took at least 6 photos of the family that day. You can see two of the children smiling in one of the frames and One of them smiling in another. I’ve never heard the story that the children were laughing but you can’t say they weren’t just because you don’t think they should be! Kids will be kids, after all! The other photos can be seen here:


  2. I really beleive that to understand history, we need to have photos or any form of proof of how history happened. Without this valuable iconic picture is difficult to imagine how american people were suffering in the depression era.
    After reading who this woman was, I feel lucky to have food and a place to live. But at the same time i feel worry about the recent económic situation in US.

  3. Pingback: Portrait « Ladies & Gentlemen

  4. SayBlade, is there a single puerile trope that you HAVEN’T adopted?

    Your comments mar far too many important photos in the collection.

    In this case, your ideas of community and interdependence (as pallatives for globalizaton and corporatism) revel a deep ignorance of history. Nobody cares about your insipid and pompous opinions.

  5. Laughing children, my foot. Anyone who has children can read the look on her face – how am I going to get enough food to feed my children past today. My own mother has told me that Life magazine searched for her years later and found her as she was dying. Keep in mind that the woman in the photo above was 32. Try and guess her age.

  6. I think Robert Hughes called it the “fraying of America.” Can’t believe how many of the comments reflect an ignorance of The Great Depression in this country. And, by the way, the word immigrant does not carry the same meaning as migrant.

    And to the comment about the laughing children:
    yes, everybody thought it was absolutely lovely to be homeless, hungry and poor in the 1930s. Banks closed, there were bread lines, and huge numbers of people were unemployed.

  7. I learned in my History of Photography class that the reason the children are looking away is not because they are embarrassed, but because they were laughing while Lange was taking the picture. Lange felt that such happy children despite their poverty would not have conveyed the proper message of urgency.

  8. It is so surprising that this memory disappears in the face of globalisation and large corporate takeovers. People slip through the cracks and are forgotten. We need to revisit this memory of destitution, starvation and uncertainty on our own continent to reawaken the social sensitivity of people whose me-first attitudes should give way to the idea of community, interdependence and “hey, that could just as well be me.”

    Remember Florence Owens Thompson and Dorothea Lange!

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