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Exhibition Not an Ostrich: & Other Images from America's Library

Dorothea Lange. Migrant Mother. Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California. March 1936. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (36.00.00)
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DOROTHEA LANGE. Migrant Mother. Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age 32.

This is among the Library of Congress’s most requested images. In Nipomo, California, Dorothea Lange, who worked for the Resettlement Administration (a New Deal program created to assist low-income families), came upon a family whose car had stalled outside of a pea pickers camp. Lange approached the stranded woman in a tent surrounded by some of her seven children and took six exposures. Lange’s later director, Roy Stryker, referred to the Migrant Mother as the “ultimate photo of the Depression Era.” In subsequent decades, artists have copied the mother and children but given them the features of other ethnicities, making the mother’s burdens universal. Florence Owens Thompson, the original Migrant Mother, was Native American.