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Migrant Mother II: 1936

Migrant Mother II: 1936

August 17, 1936. Blythe, California. "Drought refugees from Oklahoma camping by the roadside. They hope to work in the cotton fields. There are seven in family. The official at the border inspection service said that on this day, 23 carloads and truckloads of migrant families out of the drought counties of Oklahoma and Arkansas had passed through from Arizona entering California." Medium-format negative by Dorothea Lange for the Resettlement Administration. View full size.


Antibodies, too

This lovely mother isn't just providing food and comfort for her toddler. She is also passing on her own antibodies, to help protect him from illness, because his own immune system would have still been developing.

True Beauty

That is the face of the most beautiful woman I have seen, such strength, love, character.

This lady

definitely has more femininity, modesty and class than modern American women.

Nursing mom

I wish we had a breastfeeding tag here. I've seen other babes nursing.

The child is definitely not too old to be nursing. It's only been within in the last century that Americans as a whole have put their babies on artificial baby milk or weaned from the breast way too early. The minimum recommended ranges from 12-24 months--and that's a minimum on the breast, not a maximum.

I've come across other nursing mother pictures in old photos. I think that it was likely seen as a normal thing to do. Totally modest, there was no accusation of a lack of discretion--this is simply how infants and toddlers are fed and comforted. Hopefully we can move back toward attitudes such as this.

This picture is both beautiful and sorrowful.

Compelling time period

I am a huge fan of researching this time period the images, such as this one, capture moments of raw human emotion. I did a post recently about The Great Depression, using archive photographs to look at the support systems that are put in place to aid people, like the family member shown here.

Those Eyes

Even though this is a still photograph, I believe she has what they would call an unwavering gaze. Those eyes have seen misery and hardship impossible for most of us to imagine. I wish you well, dear woman.

Ow. Ow. Ow.

This is pure pain. This shot, all shots by Dorothea Lange transend time, simply put, each one is "art". IMO, she was the master of photography. I have so much personal pain viewing this that I cannot even comment.


The child looks a little big to be still nursing which would mean this is the only way mom could feed him, Dad looks hopeless while mom looks strong. One of the strongest photos of motherhood I have ever seen.

A different time

My first day in California was spent in Blythe in January of 1979. I know because that night in the motel room we watched the pilot of "Dukes of Hazzard." The family was headed for LA and I hated every minute I was in that town.

I thought Blythe was a miserable town in January. I can't imagine what it was like sitting on the side of the road in August.

This photo almost brought tears to my eyes.

Blythe, CA in August

is hell on Earth under any conditions. This must have been pure misery.

Those were tough times.

I like to relate to the pictures on this web page. 1936 was the year I entered the Henry Ford Trade School and now know how fortunate I was. Would like to know what happened to this young lady. Have read that some of these people or their children did quite well in California.

A long sleeved shirt?

I'd at least have the sleeves rolled up, if that was my only shirt. Every August in Blythe when I passed through, it was 110 or more. And I didn't have air-conditioning in the VW, so I felt every one of those degrees even in a tank top, shorts, and sandals. You don't see any sweat because it evaporates almost instantly in the low, low humidity.

My Ozark relatives would say that looking into those young woman's eyes, she got some spunk in 'er!

Down but not out

Look at the set of her jaw and near glare of her eyes. There was a lot of spirit left in this young woman.


One of the most strinking and haunting pictures you've found. 'Powerful' is too weak a word. Thank you.

Slouching towards Bakersfield

Still no room at the inn.

Sensibilities of the time

I doubt DL would have lasted five minutes if she had had such a patronizing attitude as to view "Okies" as an inferior culture. What she's saying IMHO is, "you sent me to document the indomitable American spirit and this is what I found." The first thing poverty kills is privacy.

Sorority Sister

To me she looks amazingly contemporary. Minus the steely gaze and the nursing baby she could be a college girl.I'm sure she's in her early 20s. Straight out of Steinbeck. What a life.

An Exotic Culture

It's a poignant photograph.

By the sensibilities of the time, though, one just didn't show photos of women breastfeeding. Unless, of course, the woman was from an exotic and inferior culture, who's whose nakedness was suitable for display in the pages of National Geographic Magazine.

One wonders if Dorothea Lange viewed the Okies this way.


Another shot by Dorothea.


Ohhhhh. So that's what they're used for.

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