Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sepia Saturday: Dorothea Lange and the Migrant Mother Images

During the Great Depression, 
the federal government created
 the Farm Security Administration, 
an agency intended to improve the lot
 of poor farmers and their families.

One program was designed to
buy out small, unproductive farms
and introducing more efficient collective farms.

Fueled by demands from Congress,
loans were eventually made available
to help tenant farmers purchase land of their own. 

To emphasize the needs of the rural poor,
 the FSA hired a cadre of photographers to make
 "public relations" photographs.

One of these photographers was a young woman
named Dorothea Lange.

She traveled around the country,
snapping images of agricultural workers
who had little to nothing in terms of income
and financial security, like this ex-tenant farmer
in Imperial Valley, California who had a small'
"relief grant."

Her photographs of a migrant worker/mother
 are images of iconic standing.

This woman was a 32-year old mother
of seven hungry children.
Her husband was a native Californian
and itinerant farm worker in Nimpomo, California.

Her worn and troubled face became a symbol
of the hardships faced by rural Americans
during the Depression.

Interestingly, the plight of the rural poor
changed dramatically with the outbreak 
of World War II, because there was a surplus
of unfilled factory jobs in major cities. 
These jobs offered a way out of rural poverty.

The FSA was eventually replaced by the Farmers Home Administration, which was a major part of
President Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty 
in the 1960s. 

The photographs are in the archives of the Library of Congress 
and because they were created under government auspices,
the photos are in the public domain.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

Meri, I've seen the last two photographs frequently but did not know that the photographer was Dorothea Lange. Her photographs are exquisite.