Migrant Mother

Nicole Schindler
ENGL 101 / 9:00-9:50
Professor Houston
Visual analysis essay
Lange’s “Migrant Mother”
By the early 1930s, the Great Depression had hit the country. Also, at this time a severe drought had started in the Great Plains. The rains didn’t come anymore as expected. In the high plains, the 1930s were known as the Dirty 30s. Dorothea Lange captured the plight of one family enduring the hardships of this mark in time. The photo was captured in March of 1936 at a camp for seasonal agricultural workers 175 miles north of Los Angeles. Lange was working for the Farm Security Administration as part of a team of photographers documenting the impact of federal programs in improving rural conditions. I feel as though Lange’s care and compassion for those in these living conditions during that time was part of what she was trying to express in this photograph. It captures both weakness and strength within a person as well as within a country during such a pivotal time in our history. It also demonstrates the determination of a mother to do her best to care for her children and to endure through those trying times. This photograph is not only intriguing because it is iconic. It elicits an emotional response in the viewer that can be explained by the raw emotion of the subject, the migrant mother. The composition of the photo is also aesthetically pleasing and I feel that it holds more power in black and white than it would in color. One needs little to no context of the photo in order to feel drawn to it.
The family's clothing alone suggests their poverty. The mother wears a ragged shirt with frayed sleeves that appear to extend only as far as her elbows. Her children's clothing is not any better than her own attire. The baby lies wrapped in a blanket or coat that has become soiled and grey. One sleeve of the garment worn by the blonde-haired child leaning on the mother's left shoulder is visible revealing two small holes or dark patches of dirt with the...