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Maid of the Marsh: 1940

Maid of the Marsh: 1940

November 1940. "Daughter of day laborer. Scioto Marshes, Hardin County, Ohio. Photos show poorly housed and poorly clad workers. Wooden shacks." Medium format acetate negative by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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Sad space

But a wry face. The girl, whose features are nearly identical to those of the boy in the framed photo, seems to be intentionally mimicking his expression. And they both seem to be taking cues from the ceramic dog next to the radio.

Zenith 4-V-31

This was a "tombstone" farm radio powered by a 6-volt battery, often found in rural areas without electrical power from the grid. The wires from the top probably lead to an external antenna and it looks like a couple of wires leading down from the right lower corner that might be the 6-volt lines from a storage battery.

A midpriced radio when new in 1935.

Beautiful smile on her looks happy.

Among the prized household possessions. We had a mirror like that with the wheat sheaves when I was a kid.

It could break your heart

There's something about this photo that is heartbreaking. The paper roses; the radio displayed, despite the lack of electricity to run it; the home-made greeting card on the shabby dresser; the carefully-pressed dresser scarf; the knick-knacks; the family photos; the young woman's brave (and ironic) smile, as she wears a coat indoors either to cover up a ragged dress or to keep warm in a poorly heated dwelling: this is a family that is struggling mightily to maintain "respectability" in the face of unpleasant odds. Hope things improved for them in the coming years.

Punctuation Matters

She's not, as I first thought, the daughter of day laborer Scioto Marshes.

Heritable grin

She's got the same smile as the man in the photo.

Seeing double

Would that be her father or brother in the framed photo on the dresser? In spite of the living conditions, she has a huge grin on her face. That makes my day. Cool radio.

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