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Better Than It Was: 1939

Better Than It Was: 1939

February 1939. Calipatria, Imperial Valley. Farm Security Administration emergency migratory labor camp. Daughter of ex-tenant farmers on thirds and fourths in cotton. Had fifty dollars when set out. Went to Phoenix, picked cotton, pulled bolls, made eighty cents a day. Stayed until school closed. Went to Idaho, picked peas until August. Left McCall with forty dollars "in hand." Went to Cedar City and Parowan, Utah, a distance of 700 miles. Picked peas through September. Went to Hollister, California. Picked peas through October. Left Hollister for Calipatria for early peas which froze. Now receiving Farm Security Administration food grant and waiting for work to begin. "Back in Oklahoma, we are sinking. You work your head off for a crop and then see it burn up. You live in debts that you can never get out of. This isn't a good life, but I say that it's a better life than it was." View full size. Photo and caption by Dorothea Lange.


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Thirds and Fourths

Farming "on thirds and fourths" was a form of sharecropping where the tenant farmers paid the landowner with a third of the cash crops and a quarter of the cotton.


"You live in debts that you can never get out of."

This is a common thread with life today too. Going into debt so you never see the light of day, just so you can have "things." Sad story.

Thirds and Fourths

Does anyone know what "on thirds and fourths in cotton" means? "Daughter" looks pregnant, no?

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