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Migrant Mother: 1936

Migrant Mother: 1936

        The anonymous subject of this famous Depression-era portrait known as "Migrant Mother" came forward in the late 1970s and was revealed to be Florence Owens Thompson. She died in 1983.

February 1936. Nipomo, California. "Destitute pea pickers living in tent in migrant camp. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two." Photo by Dorothea Lange. View full size.


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Migrant Mother's Daughter

Interviewed here, on CNN.

Sign of the times

She looks a lot older than she might today for a couple reasons. One is malnutrition. When the draft started in World War 2 the Army was complaining about all the recruits they bounced because of nutritional diseases (scurvy, rickets). By 1946 the government started a school lunch program to keep people from starving in the recession after the war.

I get a kick out of people who are idiots waxing on about the good old days. The good old days were where you maybe lived until 43 if you didn't die of some disease, alcoholism, accident on the job, malnutrition, or in childbirth.

Thumb Removal

Notice that the mother's thumb has been (partially) removed from the post in the lower right hand corner. You can see the ghost of it. I always heard it had been removed but this is the first time I have seen a clear enough print to see the removal work. The photographer thought the thumb was a distraction.

Golden Dreams

In the Golden Dreams show at Disney's California adventure, they re-created Dorothea Lange taking this picture and the people in the video looked SO much like the real deal, it's spooky. I loved this photo in the film and I'm very happy to find it on Shorpy.

Migrant mother's child

The daughter is in Modesto, Calif., and was recently burned out of her home.


Here's a link to a site presumably written by Florence Thompson's grandson that answers some questions about the family:

where are her kids now?

where are her kids now?


Why didn't she get some training and become a member of the wealthy elite class as the CEO of a BIG corporation.

Or, become a sports or entertainment star?

You commoners deserve your fates.

Thirty-two years old...

She looks to be about 45. The strain this woman must have been under...

More on the subject

Here is a link for more in depth information on the famous photo.

Anonymous Tipster

Thanks for the link with the info. About the pic. That was great.

about the subject

Very powerful indeed.

Very powerful indeed.


If only we knew what she was thinking.


Simply one of the greatest images in photographic history. The desperation in her eyes will always haunt me.

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