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Dorothea Lange: Migrants in Steinbeck Country: Introduction


Dorothea Lange and John Steinbeck traveled the same California roads in the late 1930s, documenting the struggle of migrant farm families. She photographed the pain and despair of men, women and children living in crowded, squalid camps. He chronicled their stories, describing how once proud and self-sufficient midwest farmers lost homes, health, dignity and, far too often, loved ones. They produced two of the most enduring impressions of the Great Depression, Lange's photograph of Migrant Mother and Steinbeck's novel, The Grapes of Wrath, and helped raised awareness and aid for the plight of migrant workers.

Although they never collaborated directly, Lange and Steinbeck visited the same camps and were obviously aware of each other's labors. The San Francisco News published work by both, most notably in October, 1936 when a series of seven articles written by Steinbeck were accompanied by Lange's photographs. The articles were later published in the book, Harvest Gypsies.

The University of Louisville Photographic Archives houses more than a hundred Dorothea Lange photographs which were commissioned by the Farm Security Administration and are part of the Roy E. Stryker Collection. These include numerous images captured between May, 1935 and February, 1939. the period in which Steinbeck researched and wrote Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath.

Lange's Migrant Mother

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Ekstrom Library Lower Level
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