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My Party Dress: 1939

My Party Dress: 1939

February 1939. "Child of white migrant worker ironing in tent camp near Harlingen, Texas." 35mm negative by Russell Lee for the FSA. View full size.


Very touching.

I hope this little girl ended up having a good life.

Thinking of my Mom

My mother wasn't the daughter of migrant workers - she grew up on a ranch in No. Calif. But she was a child of the Great Depression. She told me that back then she had one nice dress to wear to school. But, being fastidious, she wanted her dress cleaned and ironed each school morning. My grandmother, who was overwhelmed with the house and keeping food on the table (sometimes they had nothing to feed the dog but butter), told my mother that if she wanted her dress clean and ironed each day she'd have to do it herself. So my mother hand washed her dress when she got home, hung it to dry overnight, then ironed it first thing in the morning with a stove-heated iron like the one in this photo.

My younger son once said, "Nobody can iron my shirt like Grandma." So true. Bet this little girl wielded a mean iron when she grew up. Thanks for the memory.

It's Mom!

I instantly thought this was my mother. Turns out she didn't come along for another 11 months after this photo. Her family was plenty poor in rural Arkansas, but did manage to stay home while her father left for out-of-state jobs, months at a time.

Ignorance is bliss

I agree that there is a sadness about the picture, but there is also hope. She HAS a pretty dress and an iron with an ironing board! Someone cares about her and has taught her to care about herself, thus the ironing. Her hair is fairly well kept, all things considered. The good news is that children who have never experienced anything else don't know there is another way or that they are lacking anything, especially if they know they are loved.

A thousand words won't do.

There is an especially sad emotion sent by this photo because of the words "My Party Dress". My hope is that this little girl in fact was getting all prettied up to go to a party, where she would escape some of the harshness of her day-to-day life. But it is very difficult for me to imagine how overwhelmed she and her family must have felt in the circumstances they found themselves. Poor choices by Mom and Dad or poor luck, the penalty paid by innocent children was as terrible. God bless her.

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