Historic Breastfeeding

[Photos] B&W Historic Photos of Public #Breastfeeding in the US #WBW2014


Long ago in Internet years (about seven years ago) I was a staunch breastfeeding advocate and researcher (still am!). Back then I wanted to get to the bottom of why nursing in public was such a big issue in the United States. So, I started digging in the photo archives of the Library of Congress for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours and discovered through black and white, historic photos that breastfeeding in public hasn’t always been a problem in the United States.

Last week I was reminded about all of my research when during the #EveryNewborn Twitter chat Kenyan Social Good Moms correspondent Maryanne Waweru Wanyama mentioned that Kenyans do not have a problem with public nursing. It’s true. The many, many times I have been to Africa I have never witnessed a problem with women breastfeeding in public; no disgusted glares or reprimands. And yet, here in the United States public breastfeeding always draws controversy.

For World Breastfeeding Week I wanted to revisit the historic photos I found years ago in the Library of Congress archives that show nursing in public hasn’t always been an issue like it is today.  When public perception about breastfeeding changed in the United States, I still don’t know. It’s definitely an issue worth pursuing.

a) Part of Social Hour audience at Shafter Camp (handwritten on reverse); b) Todd’s favorite picture of an “Okie Family” in Shafter F.S.A. Camp. Nursing babies was the usual thing at camp “Socials.” (typed and attached to reverse)
Part of Social Hour audience at Shafter Camp (handwritten on reverse) b) Todd’s favorite picture of an “Okie Family” in Shafter F.S.A. Camp. Nursing babies was the usual thing at camp “Socials.” (typed and attached to reverse)

 

Drought refugees from Oklahoma camping by the roadside. They hope to work in the cotton fields. There are seven in family. Blythe, California. LC-USF34- 009666-E
Drought refugees from Oklahoma camping by the roadside. They hope to work in the cotton fields. There are seven in family. Blythe, California. LC-USF34- 009666-E.  Lange, Dorothea, photographer
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Colored mother and child, Little Rock, Arkansas. Note: I am keeping captions as they appear in the Library of Congress archives. LC-USF3301-006023-M5; Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969, photographer
Colored sharecropper family living in Little Rock, Arkansas (same woman as above). Note: I am keeping captions as they appear in the Library of Congress archives. LC-USF33- 006023-M4; Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969, photographer
Colored sharecropper family living in Little Rock, Arkansas (same woman as above)
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This is a mother who is traveling from Louisville, Kentucky to Memphis, Tennessee on a Greyhound bus. Here, she is waiting in the Chattanooga bus terminal and breastfeeding in public in September 1943. Photographer: Esther Bubley, a pioneer in female photojournalism, who chronicled people’s daily lives for the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Collection (FSA-OWI).

 

Coal miner's wife and child. Pursglove, West Virginia. Wolcott, Marion Post, 1910-1990, photographer. LC-USF34- 050320-E
Coal miner’s wife and child. Pursglove, West Virginia. Wolcott, Marion Post, 1910-1990, photographer; LC-USF34- 050320-E

 

Scene in New Orleans, Louisiana; Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969, photographer; LC-USF33- 006099-M2
Scene in New Orleans, Louisiana; Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969,  LC-USF33- 006099-M2

 

Location:Greenville, MS, US Date taken:1937 Photographer:Alfred Eisenstaedt Time Life Magazine
Location: Greenville, MS, US
Date taken: 1937
Photographer: Alfred Eisenstaedt
Time Life Magazine

 

Migrant mother and child in tent home. Harlingen, Texas; Lee, Russell, 1903-1986, photographer; LC-USF34- 032200-D
Migrant mother and child in tent home. Harlingen, Texas; Lee, Russell, 1903-1986, photographer; LC-USF34- 032200-D

This post will be updated from time to time. There are more photos I have found from the archives and I will share them here. 

Also, see a recent post I wrote: [Photos in Black and White] Historical Look at Child and Newborn Health in the US.

 

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