"Edison, Kern County, California. Young migratory mother, originally from Texas. On the day before the photograph was made she and her husband traveled 35 miles each way to pick peas. They worked 5 hours each and together earned $2.25. They have two young children… Live in auto camp. “ 04/11/1940
—Dorothea Lange, Photographer.
The photo is one of a series taken by Dorothea Lange and Irving Rusinow for an agricultural “Community Stability and Instability” study by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and which now form a record of pre-World War II rural life and social institutions.
The full citation has some great details on this family:
Roseville, Placer County, California. On the Freights. Five o’clock in the morning in Roseville switch yards for freight going over the Sierra. A family of Mexican agricultural workers heading for Utah to top sugar beets. The mother is twenty, the father twenty-one, the child three, and the other man is the brother of the father. They had slept out overnight in the grass without bedclothing; the child’s overalls are wet with dew and he wears galoshes. A veteran migrant, he has been traveling by freight ever since he was four months old. His family follow a circuit of beets and cotton through Utah, Texas, and California.
Just 11 days until the release of the 1940 census!
Enumerators (census takers) attempted to count as many people as possible. About 120,000 enumerators went out into the city and the countryside with instructions to count every house, building, tent, cabin, hut or other place where people might be living.
This photograph’s original caption reads: “Roseville, Placer County, California. On the Freights. Five o’clock in the morning in Roseville switch yards for freight going over the Sierra, 04/19/1940”
Looking at this image, you wonder if the enumerators manage to count this family on this move? And where was this family going?
May 26 - “…Children in a democracy…” by Dorothea Lange
Dorothea Lange, whose photographs of the unemployed and migratory farm workers became synonymous with the Great Depression, was born on May 26, 1895.
The caption of this photo reads “On Arizona Highway 87, south of Chandler. Maricopa County, Arizona. Children in a democracy. A migratory family living in a trailer in an open field. No sanitation, no water. They came from Amarillo, Texas. Pulled bolls near Amarillo, picked cotton near Roswell, New Mexico, and in Arizona. Plan to return to Amarillo at close of cotton picking season for work on WPA. 11/1940”