Leave a Legacy

Leave a Legacy

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An inspiration

The woman in this photo has always inspired me. It’s a photograph that was taken in a family’s most desperate hour: a woman with her husband and their 6 kids living in a tent city in Ceres, CA in 1936. In history classes all over America, the word ‘heartbreaking’ and ‘despair’ are often used  to describe this 32 year old woman, aged beyond her years with helpless, hungry children clinging to her. But there’s more to the story; which I discovered just a few years ago. And, what I learned surprised me.

A surprising connection

A few years ago I learned that my husband’s grandparents, who grew up during the great depression, had actually met as teenagers in a tent camp in CA. In fact, they lived in the very same migrant worker camp as the woman pictured above in this iconic picture! They knew this woman and her family!  I had to know more.

What happened?

Shocked and in awe that they had been a part of such a historic chapter in American history, I asked, “What ever happened to the woman in that picture?”

It turns out she, her husband, and her 6 kids not only survived, but they thrived after the Great Depression. As adults, each of her children secured employment and thrived after a hard season in those migrant tent camps in California. Yes, the circumstances that surrounded her seemed impossible to survive. But, ultimately, her story is one of triumph, not sadness. And the story of her influence is beyond just her family.

Making an Impact…

It turns out my husband’s grandmother, Evelyn, had as a teenager seen many of the women in the camp breastfeeding their children. At the time breastfeeding was seen as something only poor people did. But, Evelyn realized that it was a gift. “How could something God gave me be bad for my baby?” she told me. She decided then and there that when she had kids of her own she would breastfeed.

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A migrant worker in Ceres, CA, breastfeeding her baby. These images are credited with shedding light on the destitute conditions of families living in the tent cities of California during the Great Depression. (Photograph by Dorothea Lange)

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This less famous image of the ‘Destitute Mother’ shows her nursing her baby. (Photograph by Dorothea Lange)

Can You Imagine?

When the time came for her to breastfeed her own 4 children, she did just that. Despite (can you imagine?) having to fight off well meaning nurses who insisted on sneaking her newborns away to the nursery for an unwanted and unneeded formula boost. Her story, like the woman in this iconic image, has always been an inspiration, a legacy to follow.

A Lasting Legacy…

Last year, I asked Evelyn about what it was like to breastfeed in a time when it was so taboo. Before she could answer, much of my husband’s family was shocked to learn that there ever was even a time like that in history. They hadn’t even known their grandma was a trailblazer! The legacy of breastfeeding was so invisible to them that no other option was even considered. Their own mother breastfed them. They too had all breastfed their children. And so on, and so on. That is the power of breastfeeding and the women who came before us to pave a way and leave a legacy. I’m humbled, I’m in awe, and I’m thankful.

This article as written by Diana Cherry, Social Media Developer for Milkmakers and blogger over at The Front Yard Frontier.