(Recto, print) signed and dated in black ink, at lower right corner: "Dorothea Lange [space] 1936"
For wet stamp see primary inscriptions where Lange has inscribed her titles, etc. within the lines of the wet stamp. See also, object file for visible example.
(Verso, mount) at upper center: RESETTLEMENT ADMINISTRATION [wet stamp] / DATE TAKEN [wet stamp] Feb 1936 (black ink written over a black wet stamp broken line] / NEGATIVE NO. [wet stamp] (Washington file) (black ink written over a black wet stamp broken line] / PLACE [wet stamp] San Luis Obispo Co, California (black ink written over a black wet stamp broken line) / TITLE [wet stamp] Human Erosion in California (black ink written over a black wet stamp broken line] / DESCRIPTIVE CAPTION [wet stamp] / Credit Line -- Lange for Resettlement Administration. [wet stamp]; at center: Facing Starvation / Starvation [inscribed in black ink within a wavy vertical line]; at center: inscribed in black ink: This family had just sold the tent from over / their heads and the tires from their car to / buy food. The mother IS 32 years old. / They were living in an open field, cold and / rainy weather, in the hope of getting some / work to do picking peas, along with / hundreds of other families; at lower center, inscribed in black ink: Photographed by Dorothea Lange for the Resettlement Administration / 2706 Virginia Street / Berkeley, California
Facing Starvation (Alternate Title)
Migrant Mother, Nipomo (Alternate Title)
The first publication of this renowned image occurred on March 11, 1936, on the third day that the San Francisco News ran a story about the pea pickers' camp in Nipomo. It was also featured as a full-page reproduction in the September 1936 issue of Survey Graphic, titled "Draggin'-Around People" and captioned "A blighted pea crop in California in 1935 left the pickers without work. This family sold their tent to get food." Also in this issue was an article by Paul Taylor, Dorothea Lange's husband, entitled "From the Ground Up." His report on demonstration projects of the New Deal's Resettlement Administration (RA) in Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and California was illustrated with four more pictures by Lange.
Since it was first published, this composition, best known as Migrant Mother, has come to represent not only the pictorial archive created by the RA/Farm Security Administration during the 1930s, but also the Great Depression itself. Posters and other publicity of later activists fighting racial, economic, and political oppression have borrowed from Lange's icon of the time. The handsome, androgynous face, the pose of stoic anxiety, and the encumbrance of three children proved to be universal attributes. Lange took five other shots of Owens on that same day. The Getty has one more from this group in its collection (2001.51.1). With Lange's artistry, Florence Owens took on the timeless quality of Eugène Delacroix's strong female rebel (Liberty Leading the People) and Jean-François Millet's peasant woman (the agrarian ideal), Honoré Daumier's laundresses (the working woman), and Kӓthe Kollwitz's proletarian woman warrior (one of the mothers leading her Peasant's War).
Owens, although, she became famous, did not enjoy, even momentarily, the life of a celebrity. She had a total of ten children and kept moving with her family, following the California crops. She did become involved in efforts to organize farm labor and would sometimes serve as the straw boss, one who negotiates wages for the migrants as the picking season begins. She was still working in the fields at the age of fifty before finally marrying again (to George Thompson) and settling down into a stable life in Modesto, California.