SHORPY Historic Photo Archive & Fine-Art Prints
The Shorpy Archive
9000+ fine-art prints suitable for framing. Desk-size to sofa-size and larger, on archival paper or canvas.
Join and Share

Support Shorpy

Shorpy is funded by you. Help by purchasing a print or contributing. Learn more.

Social Shorpy


Join our mailing list (enter email):

Member Photos

Photos submitted by Shorpy members.

Colorized Photos

Colorized photos submitted by members.

About the Photos

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.

© 2019 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

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.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5
To stay online without a paywall or a lot of pop-up ads, Shorpy needs your help. (Our server rental alone is $3,000 a year.) You can contribute by becoming a Patron, or by purchasing a print from the Shorpy Archive. Or both! Read more about our 2019 pledge drive here. Our last word on the subject is: Thanks!

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.

SHORPY OLD 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.

Syndicate content RSS | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Photo Use | © 2019 Shorpy Inc.