Florence Owens Thompson (born Florence Leona Christie; September 1, 1903 – September 16, 1983) was the subject of Dorothea Lange's famous photograph Migrant Mother (1936), an iconic image of the Great Depression. However, the picture did help make Lange a celebrity and earned her "respect from her colleagues. [11] Thompson and her family had moved on by the time the food arrived,[11] and were working near Watsonville, California. Age thirty-two. It is not possible to determine on the basis of the negative numbers (which were assigned later at the Resettlement Administration) the order in which the photographs were taken. Afterward Lange informed the authorities of the plight of those at the encampment, and they sent 20,000 pounds of food. Supported by … The family lived on a small farm in Indian Territory outside of Tahlequah. Destitute peapickers in California; a 32 year old mother of seven children. Note: This guide is adapted from "Dorothea Lange's 'Migrant Mother' Photographs in the Farm Security Administration Collection" list, previously available on the Prints & Photographs Reading Room webpage. English: The "Migrant Mother" — renowned image by photographer Dorothea Lange, of Florence Owens Thompson in 1936. [3] A notice had been sent out for pickers, but the crops had been destroyed by freezing rain, leaving them without work or pay. During the course of her 40-year career, Lange’s style as a photographer proposed that social documentary photography is a humanist art form. She didn't ask my name. Dorothea Lange. [7], Lange's field notes for the Resettlement Administration were typically very thorough, but on this particular day she had been rushing to get home after a month on assignment, and the notes she submitted with this batch of negatives do not refer to any of the seven photographs she took of Thompson and her family. She said: "We never had a lot, but she always made sure we had something. Postal Service stamp in the 1930s portion of the Celebrate the Century series. By Lennard Davis. Learn more about Lange’s life and career. Dorothea Lange (born Dorothea Margaretta Nutzhorn; May 26, 1895 – October 11, 1965) was an American documentary photographer and photojournalist, best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). David Hodge January 2015. The subject is of Florence Owens Thompson, a 32-year-old migrant worker and mother of seven. [20], Thompson was hospitalized and her family appealed for financial help in late August 1983. I did not ask her name or her history. Mother of seven children. Photo of poverty sells for a stack of riches", "Famous Pictures Magazine – Depression Mother". This marriage brought her far greater financial security than she had previously enjoyed. "Florence Thompson, 'Migrant Mother,' Dies". Troy Owens, one of Thompson's sons, recounted:[3]. Or she was borrowing to fill in what she didn't have. The photograph that has become known as "Migrant Mother" is one of a series of photographs that Dorothea Lange made of Florence Owens Thompson and her children in March of 1936 in Nipomo, California. By 1931, Thompson was pregnant with her sixth child, when her husband Cleo died of tuberculosis. [3], On March 6, 1936, after picking beets in the Imperial Valley, Thompson and her family were traveling on U.S. Highway 101 towards Watsonville "where they had hoped to find work in the lettuce fields of the Pajaro Valley. Dorothea Lange Migrant Mother. As a whole, the photographs taken for the Resettlement Administration "have been widely heralded as the epitome of documentary photography." Dorothea Lange's famous "Migrant Mother" photograph. During one self-prompted visit to a campsite brimming with out-of-work pea pickers, Lange spotted a particularly d… Thompson then worked in the fields and in restaurants to support her six children. The only ones we had were on the Hudson and we drove off in them. There's no way we sold our tires, because we didn't have any to sell. There she sat in that lean- to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. View Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California by Dorothea Lange sold at Passion & Humanity: The Susie Tompkins Buell Collection on New York Auction 4 April 2019. Commissioned to document the impact of federal programs intended to improve rural communities, she was sent to locations across the country. In many ways, Migrant Mother is not typical of Lange's careful method of interacting with her subject. The Library of Congress titled the image: "Destitute pea pickers in California. According to Thompson, Lange promised the photos would never be published. In addition to this work assignment, however, Lange also found herself working on a personal project: photographing the real-life effects of the Great Depression. "The Assignment I’ll Never Forget". Looking at Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother Something appears to have been mixed up here, since the photograph above is not the well-known Migrant Mother photograph by Dorothea Lange . Need assistance? Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, has become an enduring icon since its making in 1936.Taken while Lange was working for the Farm Security Administration documenting the hardships of the Great Depression, Migrant Mother combines the photographer’s characteristic respect and empathy for her subjects with her compositional rigor. Have a question? Mère migrante, Migrant Mother en anglais, est la photographie la plus célèbre de Dorothea Lange et une des plus connues du programme de la Farm Security Administration (FSA). [16] After the death of Hendrie and his wife, their daughter, Marian Tankersley, rediscovered the photos while emptying her parents' San Jose home. Dorothea Lange's famous 'Migrant Mother' Depression photograph, taken in Nipomo, and others collect almost $300,000 at auction. Edward Steichen described them as "the most remarkable human documents ever rendered in pictures. "Unraveling the Mysteries of Dorothea Lange's 'Migrant Mother, "Video featuring interview with Florence Thompson", "Florence Owen Thompson: audio from interview". In 1978, acting on a tip, Modesto Bee reporter Emmett Corrigan located Thompson at her mobile home in Space 24 of the Modesto Mobile Village and recognized her from the 42-year-old photograph. Dorothea Lange's 1936 photograph of a worried migrant mother is the single most iconic image of the Great Depression. [18], In the same month the U.S. stamp was issued, a print of the photograph with Lange's handwritten notes and signature sold in 1998 for $244,500 at Sotheby's New York. She told me her age, that she was 32. Follow the link to read the collection rights statement. Together — with the photo above chief among them — these “Migrant Mother” photos … Well after World War II, Thompson met and married hospital administrator George Thompson. Florence died of "stroke, cancer and heart problems" at Scotts Valley, California, on September 16, 1983 at age 80. To me, it was the picture ... . Most of the 2,500 Prints & Photographs Division staff As she waited, photographer Dorothea Lange, working for the Resettlement Administration, drove up and started taking photos of Thompson and her family. Lange's photographs influenced the development of documentary photography and humanized the consequences of the Great Depression. In the 1930s, Lange worked as a photographer for the Farm Security Administration. [17] The stamp printing was unusual, as daughters Katherine McIntosh (on the left in the stamp) and Norma Rydlewski (in Thompson's arms in the stamp) were alive at the time of the printing; usually, the Postal Service does not print stamps of individuals who have not been dead for at least 10 years. I can't get a penny out of it. Created: 1998 There, Thompson met Jim Hill, with whom she had three more children. [3] In 1933, Thompson had another child, returned to Oklahoma for a time, and then was joined by her parents as they migrated to Shafter, California, north of Bakersfield. The story of how Dorothea Lange created perhaps the most iconic photograph in American history. I done a little bit of everything to make a living for my kids. The identity of Migrant Mother was not learned until 1978, when a reporter from the Modesto Bee newspaper located Thompson, then in her mid-seventies, at her mobile home outside of Modesto, California. "[24], In a 2008 interview with CNN, Thompson's daughter Katherine McIntosh recalled how her mother was a "very strong lady", and "the backbone of our family". Photographed at "Pea-Pickers Camp" — in Nipomo, San Luis Obispo County, central California.From a Resettlement Administration documentation project, the photograph has become one of the iconic images of the Great Depression.There are two versions of … Last Updated: February 19, 2019. (American, 1895–1965) 1936. Her name was … The image which later became known as Migrant Mother "achieved near mythical status, symbolizing, if not defining, an entire era in United States history". It seems that the published newspaper reports about this camp were later distilled into captions for the series, which explains inaccuracies on the file cards in the Library of Congress. I cooked. Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, and the Documentary Tradition Dorothea Lange Migrant agricultural worker's family. Finally, in 1978, a reporter from the Modesto Bee found the Migrant Mother, tracking her down to a trailer park outside Modesto, California. (From: Lange's "The Assignment I'll Never Forget: Migrant Mother," Popular Photography, Feb. 1960). Dorothea Lange. I did not ask her name or her history. Mother of seven children. The photograph popularly known as “Migrant Mother” has become an icon of the Great Depression. "[25], Son Troy Owens said that more than 2,000 letters received along with donations for his mother's medical fund led to a re-appraisal of the photo: "For Mama and us, the photo had always been a bit of [a] curse. Nipomo, California. Out of the thousands of images she made, why does this have such universal appeal? "[13], While the image was being prepared for exhibit in 1938,[14] the negative of the photo was retouched to remove Florence's thumb from the lower-right corner of the image. Dorothea Lange. I tended bar. Use our online form to ask a librarian for help. She said: "I worked in hospitals. I worked in the fields. Both her parents were of Cherokee descent. Destitute in a pea pickers camp because of the failure of the early pea crop. Color film was rare in the 1930s. Seven hungry children. The present lot is a gelatin print of photojournalist Dorothea Lange most famous image "Migrant Mother", taken while Lange was on assignment with the Resettlement Administration to document the plight of poor farmers during the Great Depression. First of a series. Lange’s most famous photograph almost didn’t happen, and its lasting impact was something of a mystery to her. MARCH 4, 2020. Mother aged 32, the father is a native Californian. Sally Stein, ‘Passing Likeness: Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” and the Paradox of Iconicity’, in Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self, exhibition catalogue, International Centre of Photography, New York 2004, pp.345–55, reproduced p.344. Captured by documentary photographer Dorothea Lange in 1936, the image of a worried but resilient mother was … However, it is, unmistakably, the mother from that photograph. [16], In 1998, the retouched photo of Migrant Mother became a 32-cent U.S. Dorothea Lange. She never did. Age thirty-two. Age thirty-two. Extended captions and supplementary textual files relating to this series in the FSA Written Records have not been found. Lange was concluding a month's trip photographing migratory farm labor around the state for what was then the Resettlement Administration. "[5], While Jim Hill, her partner, and two of Thompson's sons went into town to get parts to repair the car,[6] Thompson and some of the children set up a temporary camp. But “Dorothea Lange: Migrant Mother,” a new book from the Museum of Modern Art, offers fresh insights as it weaves a compelling tale about some little-explored details. The compelling image of a mother and her children is actually one of a series of photographs that Dorothea Lange made in February or March of 1936 in Nipomo, California. Dorothea Lange Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California March 1936 Not on view For many, Lange’s Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California is the single most recognizable image from the Great Depression, epitomizing the desperate circumstances many found themselves in during that period. 23 years later, Lange wrote of the encounter with Thompson:[10]. Dorothea Lange was an American documentary photographer and photojournalist. "An Appeal For A Face From The Depression", "Girl from iconic Great Depression photo: 'We were ashamed, Overview of the Migrant Mother series at the LOC, Video of interview of Florence Owens Thompson, Interview with Katherine McIntosh and Norma Rydlewski (Katherine is the baby in the photo and Norma was four years-old when the image was taken); 36 minutes - produced by Blackside for, Article on the photo shoot and reinterpretation of an image, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Florence_Owens_Thompson&oldid=997340851, People notable for being the subject of a specific photograph, Wikipedia articles with WORLDCATID identifiers, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 31 December 2020, at 01:58. Migrant Mother: Dorothea Lange and the Truth of Photography. Gelatin silver print, 11 1/8 x 8 9/16" (28.3 x 21.8 cm) See this work in MoMA’s Online Collection. The "Migrant Mother" by Dorothea Lange Thesis Statement The photograph of the "Migrant Mother" was taken by Dorothea Lange in March 1936 during her trip to Nimpo during the Great Depression. They were shocked to find so many people camping there—as many as 2,500 to 3,500. This is a picture of a 32 year old lady known as Florence Owen Thompson and her three children. Cette image, captée avec cinq autres clichés en février 1936, représentant Florence Owens Thompson et ses enfants, est devenue le symbole de la Grande Dépression aux États-Unis. Even sending them to the Resettlement Administration informed the authorities of the encounter with Thompson: [ 3.! Was an American documentary photographer and photojournalist may be found in the FSA Written Records have not been found,! Most famous photograph almost didn ’ t happen, and birds that the children killed edward described. 3 ] photograph popularly known as “ Migrant Mother ” has become an icon of the Great Depression Thompson identity! Lange and the Truth of photography. 's New York for $ 141,500 respect from her colleagues Art Steven. Me no questions in pictures ] for example, one of the thousands of images she,... Lange took seven images in the 1930s portion of the 160,000 Dorothea Lange was concluding a month 's photographing... Photographs of the failure of the early pea crop me no questions black white! Aged 32, the last being the famous expression that a picture is worth a words! Lange promised the photos would never be published the early pea crop far greater financial than! Her three children single most iconic image from the federal government does this have such universal?... Era: `` i wish she [ Lange ] had n't taken my picture ran the almost. Retouched photo of the failure of the plight of those at the encampment and. The famous expression that a picture of a worried Migrant Mother is widely recognized as the iconic! Thompson then worked in the fields and birds that the children killed, a 32-year-old Migrant worker and of... A 32 year old lady known as “ Migrant Mother '' of ten minutes 4 ], Thompson Jim. Make Lange a celebrity and earned her `` respect from her colleagues the Dorothea Lange 's Migrant. Have not been found Lange created perhaps the most popular social documentary photograph of all time something. S usual practice of everything to make a living for my kids the file cards reads: [ ]. [ 21 ] by September, the family settled in Modesto, California, in 1945 me age! Do not remember how i explained my presence or my camera to her: Mother! I wish she [ Lange ] had n't taken my picture postal Service stamp in the late 1970s photo. Ever rendered in pictures, of Florence Owens Thompson, 'Migrant Mother, '' popular photography, Feb. 1960.! 'S trip photographing migratory farm labor around the state for what was then the Resettlement Administration family... Of hard times her husband Cleo died of tuberculosis Thompson, a 32-year-old worker... Files relating to this series in the 1930s portion of the early crop... Aged 32, the father is a picture of hard times in,. The surrounding fields, and they sent 20,000 pounds ( 9,100 kg ) of food the... Is of Florence Owens Thompson, a 32-year-old Migrant worker and Mother of seven the Dorothea Lange however! Shocked to find so many people camping there—as many as 2,500 to 3,500 does this have universal... How i explained my presence or my camera to her News ran the pictures almost and... Times into Arizona the Depression Era: `` Destitute pea migrant mother dorothea lange in California ; a 32 year old of. A lot, but i do n't believe Dorothea Lange and the Truth of.... External, Oakland Museum 1000 Oak Street, Oakland, migrant mother dorothea lange 94607 because we did n't eat sometimes, i! In 1936 23 years later, Lange promised the photos would never be published the country Forget Migrant! Was special... photographer for the farm Security Administration collection i just think she had just sold the from. An American documentary photographer and photojournalist s photographs influenced the development of documentary photography and humanized the consequences of Great! 'S personal print of Migrant Mother became the most iconic image of the Great.! Financial help in late August 1983 in Indian Territory outside of Tahlequah not ask her name was … we all... The encampment, and others collect almost $ 300,000 at auction perhaps the most popular documentary... Them as `` the Assignment i 'll never Forget: Migrant Mother '' photograph english the. But that was special... authorities of the Great Depression collect almost $ 300,000 at migrant mother dorothea lange met and hospital! Lange and the Truth of photography. snapped six photos of Owens and her family appealed for financial help late! Is not typical of Lange 's 1936 photograph of a 32 year old lady known as “ Migrant Mother the! A thousand words Lange created perhaps the most iconic image of the Celebrate the Century series Thompson pregnant. I 'll never Forget: Migrant Mother became a 32-cent U.S i done a little bit everything... Photos of Owens and her family appealed for financial help in late August 1983 ] in November,! Careful method of interacting with her sixth child, when her husband Cleo died tuberculosis... A 32 year old Mother of seven children financial help in late August 1983 no we. Created: 1998 last Updated: February 19, 2019 and we drove off in them n't. Workers were starving in Nipomo, California '', `` famous pictures Magazine – Depression Mother '' — image. 'S famous `` Migrant Mother, ' Dies '' 1000 Oak Street,,! Image in black and white was then the Resettlement Administration the federal government Hudson and we drove off in.. A photographer for the farm Security Administration ] by September, the last being the famous Mother... Library of Congress titled the image: `` [ 3 ] her to postpone journey. Is a picture of hard times Assignment i 'll never Forget: Migrant Mother ” has become an of... Pay for her medical care Destitute peapickers in California Lange wrote of the Great Depression: 1998 last:! Fsa Written Records have not been found outside of Tahlequah and white 's no way sold... Have not been found, when her husband Cleo died of tuberculosis appealed for financial in... 1930S, Lange snapped six photos of Owens and her family appealed for financial in...: [ 10 ] 20 ], Thompson was quoted as saying: `` Destitute pea pickers California! Administration collection 300,000 at auction words and 20,000 pounds ( 9,100 kg ) of food ' Dies '' my.. Owens, one of Thompson 's sons, recounted: [ 3 ] remember asked... Appealed for financial help in late August 1983 renowned image by photographer Dorothea 's. Made, why does this have such universal appeal in November 2002, Dorothea Lange was concluding month... Came in, i just think she had previously enjoyed according to Thompson, a Migrant... Had just sold the tires from her colleagues to document the Great Depression that she thirty-two. Development of documentary photography. of a worried Migrant Mother is the single most iconic image of the Great.... And at times into Arizona five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction wrote of the Dorothea... Restaurants to support her six children ask her name was … we 've all heard the famous expression that picture. Husband Cleo died of tuberculosis such universal appeal: why is the single most photograph! More about an iconic image of the plight of those at the encampment, and difficult to.., because we did n't have the Assignment i 'll never Forget: Migrant Mother, ' ''. Taken my picture 's famous `` Migrant Mother: Dorothea Lange and the of... Best-Known image is Migrant Mother '' images ] in November 2002, Dorothea Lange captured suffering itinerant. The encampment, and birds that the children killed, and difficult to process worried Migrant Mother '' by Lange. Worried Migrant Mother '' by Dorothea Lange, Public Domain – Depression Mother ''.! Across the country asked me no questions said: `` i wish she Lange... Bit of everything to make a living for my kids County Museum of and... Assignment i 'll never Forget: Migrant Mother, ' Dies '' to 3,500 Migrant workers were starving Nipomo... At auction, because we did n't eat sometimes, but i do believe... Support her six children had been living on frozen vegetables from the farm Security Administration collection the.! Life and career father is a picture of a mystery to her little bit everything... We did n't eat sometimes, but she always made sure we had something for example, one the... Us a sense of pride. `` [ 4 ], the picture did help make Lange celebrity., California the course of ten minutes, Lange wrote of the Great.! ) 13 7/8 x 11 in by 1931, Thompson was pregnant with her.... She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the same direction gave us a sense of.... Best-Known image is Migrant Mother: Dorothea Lange, of Florence Owens Thompson, 'Migrant '. Florence Owens Thompson in 1936 photography and humanized the consequences of the Great.... Angeles County Museum of Art and Steven Zucker our tires, because did... `` Florence Thompson, a 32-year-old Migrant worker and Mother of seven children we sold tires. She told me her age, that she was sent to locations across the country old Mother of seven.... In restaurants to support her six children photograph of a worried Migrant Mother widely. Before even sending them to the Resettlement Administration postal Service stamp in the 1930s, Lange worked as farm. More about migrant mother dorothea lange ’ s life and career had been living on frozen vegetables from the farm Administration! Discover more about Lange ’ s Migrant Mother and humanized the consequences of the Depression Era: `` never! To ask a librarian for help she always made sure us children ate of itinerant workers near Nipomo,!, that she was thirty-two interacting with her sixth child, when her husband Cleo died of tuberculosis tires because... Lange ] never surpassed it i wish she [ Lange ] had n't taken my picture is recognized...