Thursday, June 14, 2012

Born this day in 1904 | Margaret Bourke-White
LIFE's 1st Female Photographer

The United States

The Fort Peck Dam; The first photo on the cover of LIFE Magazine

Prisoners at B├╝chenwald, 1946

Dr. Kurt Lisso, Leipzig's city treasurer, and his wife and daughter after taking poison to avoid surrender to U.S. troops, Leipzig, 1945

German civilians made to face their nation's crimes, Buchenwald

Bourke White, Margaret
American, 1904-1971

Margaret Bourke-White (June 14, 1904 – August 27, 1971) was an American photographer and photo journalist. She was born in the Bronx, New York, to Joseph White (who came from an Orthodox Jewish family) and Minnie Bourke, the daughter of an Irish ship's carpenter and an English cook; she was a Protestant.

Margaret grew up in Bound Brook, New Jersey.

In 1922, she began studying herpetology at Columbia University, where she developed an interest in photography after studying under Clarence White. In 1925, she married Everett Chapman, but the couple divorced a year later. After switching colleges several times (University of Michigan, Purdue University in Indiana, and Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio), Margaret graduated from Cornell University in 1927. A year later, she moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where she became an industrial photographer at the Otis Steel Company.

In 1929, she accepted a job as associate editor for Fortune magazine. In 1930, she became the first Western photographer allowed into the Soviet Union. She was hired by Henry Luce as the first female photojournalist for Life magazine.

Her photographs of the construction of the Fort Peck Dam were featured in the first issue, dated November 23, 1936, including the cover. This cover photograph became such an iconic image that it was featured as the 1930s representative to the United States Postal Service's Celebrate the Century series of commemorative postage stamps.

During the mid-1930s, Bourke-White, like Dorothea Lange, photographed drought victims of the Dust Bowl. Bourke-White was married to novelist Erskine Caldwell from 1939 to 1942, and together they collaborated on You Have Seen Their Faces (1937).

Bourke-White was the first female war correspondent and the first woman to be allowed to work in combat zones during World War II.

During the 1950s, Bourke-White was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and she died in Connecticut, aged 65.

The Margaret Bourke-White Collection at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator:Bourke-White, Margaret, 1904-1971.
Title:Margaret Bourke-White Papers
Inclusive Dates:1928-1964
Quantity:76.0 linear ft.
Abstract:Biographical material, correspondence, writings, and memorabilia. Memorabilia consists of financial, legal, and printed materials, photographic equipment, scrapbooks, and miscellany. Bourke-White's photographs and negatives comprise a separate collection, also located in Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Library.
Repository:Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Library
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

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