It was February or March of 1936. Her name was Florence Owens Thompson. She was 32 years old, caring for her seven children, eking out a living at that moment picking peas in fields near Nipomo, California. Twenty-four years later Dorothea Lange wrote of her memory of their encounter in front of the tent in which the family lived:
"I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean- to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it."
Lange's documentary photographic work during the Depression was funded by the Farm Security Administration.