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Esther Bubley (1921-1998)

Introduction | Early Life | Wartime Work | Postwar | Personal Life | Achievements | Resources

Wartime Work and OWI


The schedule for use of the boardinghouse bathroom is worked out so that each person has eight minutes in the morning...
The schedule for use of the boardinghouse bathroom is worked out so that each person has eight minutes in the morning... (Enid Bubley, Roselyn Silverman and Bluma Horowitz at Dissin’s, a boarding house at 2013 Massachusetts Avenue, NW that catered to "young Jewish people.")1943.
LC-USW3-038325-E

In May 1942, Bubley landed a position shooting microfilm at the National Archives--"a job that drove [her] absolutely mad"--before Roy Stryker hired her to work in the darkrooms of the Office of War Information (OWI), the successor to Stryker's celebrated historical section of the Farm Security Administration (FSA)

In hopes of impressing Stryker, Bubley snapped images of wartime subjects in the nation's capitol during her off-hours between January and September, 1943. Beginning with her sisters as models, she documented the lives of women who filled the myriad of support jobs the war effort required.

Bus trip from Knoxville, Tennessee to Washington, D.C. Girl baggage clerk loading newspapers
Bus trip from Knoxville, Tennessee to Washington, D.C. Girl baggage clerk loading newspapers ... 1943.
LC-USW3-038052-E

Stryker eventually hired her as a staff photographer and sent her on a six-week cross-country bus trip to document a country in transition between the Great Depression and World War II.

Much of Bubley's fame now rests on the images from that trip. They captured a range of expression--anxiety, exhaustion, boredom and enthusiasm--of people on the homefront whose lives were inextricably caught up in the national effort of willing a safe and speedy victory for "our boys."

Girl who has picked up two soldiers
Girl who has picked up two soldiers ... 1943.
LC-USW3-021032-E

In addition to continuing to explore the changing roles of women, Bubley's photographs for the OWI depicted servicemen in wartime Washington.

 

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  October 22, 2010
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