Marion Post Wolcott

Photographing the South

September 21, 2008 - December 31, 2008

As a female photographer in the 1930s, Marion Post Wolcott was required to cover fashion stories and events for the ladies’ pages. Frustrated, she sought and landed a job with the Farm Security Administration in 1938. Following the path of earlier FSA photographers Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Arthur Rothstein, Wolcott traveled the South to capture images of rural America and demonstrate the effectiveness of the New Deal Administration’s programs in improving quality of life. Through this enduring public art project, Wolcott shaped our historical understanding of life during the Depression by documenting social concerns such as race and poverty, while evoking empathy for the subjects she encountered.

Wolcott was no stranger to involvement in social issues. Her mother was a women’s health activist and was a contemporary of early family planning advocate Margaret Sanger, and Wolcott’s initial career path was in early childhood education. While studying at the University of Vienna, Wolcott witnessed the rise of Hitler before returning to the U.S. for her own safety. Back in New York, she became active in the League Against War and Fascism and helped Jews, including her former photography instructor, immigrate to the U.S.