04 December 2008

The daughter of "Migrant Mother"


Most people will recognize the photograph above by Dorothea Lange as an iconic image of the Great Depression. CNN has a brief but interesting interview with the woman who was the little girl on the left of the photo; she is now 77 years old:
Lange was traveling through Nipomo, California, taking photographs of migrant farm workers for the Resettlement Administration. At the time, Thompson had seven children who worked with her in the fields.

"She asked my mother if she could take her picture -- that ... her name would never be published, but it was to help the people in the plight that we were all in, the hard times," McIntosh says.

"So mother let her take the picture, because she thought it would help."
The next morning, the photo was printed in a local paper, but by then the family had already moved on to another farm, McIntosh says...
"People was starving in that camp. There was no food," she says. "We were ashamed of it. We didn't want no one to know who we were..." .
Her mom would put newborns in cotton sacks and pull them along as she picked cotton. The older kids would stay in front, so mom could keep a close eye on them. "We would pick the cotton and pile it up in front of her, and she'd come along and pick it up and put it in her sack," McIntosh says..
They lived in tents or in a car. Local kids would tease them, telling them to clean up and bathe. "They'd tell you, 'Go home and take a bath.' You couldn't very well take a bath when you're out in a car [with] nowhere to go."
She adds, "We'd go home and cry."
McIntosh now cleans homes in the Modesto, California, area. She's proud of the living she's been able to make -- that she has a roof over her head and has been able to maintain a job all these years. She says her obsession to keep things clean started in her youth when her chore was to keep the family tent clean. There were two white sheets that she cleaned each day...
She says she'll never forget the lessons of her hard-working mother, who died at the age of 80 in 1983. Her gravestone says: "Migrant Mother: A Legend of the strength of American motherhood."
"She was very strict, but very loving and caring. She cared for us all.."
More of the story (and a link to more pictures) at the link.

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