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Stephanie the Riveter

The federal government’s biggest photography project ever—170,000 pictures from the 1930s and ’40s, by the likes of Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans—is now searchable through an interactive digital map, thanks to a new Yale project.

The Depression-era photos are part of a New Deal undertaking called the Farm Security Administration, which provided relief to the nation’s poorest farmers. The feds enlisted photographers to document the need in human terms.

After the US joined World War II, anti-poverty propaganda morphed into war propaganda, and the photo collection moved into the Office of War Information. The Library of Congress maintains the collection and has been digitizing it.

The Yale project, called Photogrammar, is led by Laura Wexler, a professor of American Studies and of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies who also directs the Photographic Memory Workshop. The team has mapped the images by county and by photographer and is developing some visualization tools as well.

The photo above is part of a series that Howard R. Hollem shot at New Haven’s A. C. Gilbert factory in 1942.

The toy factory, famous for its Erector Set, had converted to war manufacturing. Hollen documented how women like Stephanie Cewe and Ann Manemeit shifted from making toy trains to parachute flares.


The Yale Alumni Magazine is published by Yale Alumni Publications Inc., an alumni-based nonprofit that is not run by Yale University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration.

Filed under photography, Graduate School
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