For all the aspects of Marion's upbringing that were unorthodox, life in Bloomfield was still relatively comfortable and sheltered (Hendrickson). Later on in her time with the FSA, when she was sent out into the Deep South during the height of the Depression, Marion encountered sharp economic and racial fractures in everyday life. In most of the literature on her life, several experiences are described as having laid the groundwork for her ability to make sense of what she saw, artistically, politically, and personally.

One of her first professional experiences is usually credited with raising her class awareness. In the early 1930s, she worked in a mill town in Massachusetts at a private school for the children of the town's elites, and lived in a working-class boardinghouse (Post Wolcott 44). The contrast between the elite and lower-class worlds of Whitinsville was eye-opening. Bridging the gap of understanding across classes seemed impossible; "the working-class men in her boardinghouse knew nothing of 'progressive education,' and the clean, bright children whose minds Marion spend her days stimulating knew nothing, indeed might never know anything, about the necessity of working in order to eat" (Hurley 9).




Juliet Gorman, May 2001