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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

© 2018 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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On the Road: 1938

On the Road: 1938

June 1938. Outskirts of El Paso, Texas. "Young Negro wife cooking breakfast. 'Do you suppose I'd be out on the highway cooking my steak if I had it good at home?' Occupations: hotel maid, cook, laundress." Medium-format nitrate negative by Dorothea Lange for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

As if nothing changes...

The background is not too far from current outskirts of El Paso as it sits today. I was wondering when a picture from my hometown would pop up one day. Poignant image. Thanks for sharing as always!

How not good?

I wonder what makes it so bad at home. Is there just not a home? Because you'd think that if there were just financial problems at home, she could cook like this just as well there. Hopefully there wasn't something else bad waiting for her there.

OK, now I'm reading more into photos and captions than I should and annoying myself. Either way, this caption really makes this photo.

On the Road

What I noticed most about this particular photo, as compared to the other Depression-era photos, is that there is not the direct gaze at the camera. This woman is busy doing something for herself. Not passively sitting and enduring, but doing what must be done. Hotel maid, cook, laundress she is described. All are grueling, thankless jobs. She must have been a woman of great endurance and determination. I'm more inspired by this photo and it's caption than I have been by any other thus far.


I imagine it was hot, even in the morning. Yet this woman appears to be wearing a clean and well-pressed dress. Her shoes intrigue me. I don't think I've seen anything like them before. I wonder what became of her?

Beyond Here Lies Nothing

It seems passing strange to me that, while many Shorpyites have been moved to give their two cents worth on other, recent Great Depression pictures-analyzing and projecting their emotions on the set of the nursing mother's jaw or the grin of the dirty-faced boy, no one has has had a word for this determined, realistic woman. The rocky foreground, the barren wasteland and the almost infinitely distant horizon make her simple act of preparing food seem quite heroic. Perhaps her position in society better prepared her for the Depression, giving her a capacity for survival and not encumbering her with a lot of easily broken dreams.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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