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

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.

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!

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.

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.