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Marion Post Wolcott
(June 7, 1910–November 24, 1990)
MARION POST WOLCOTT
Born in 1910 in New Jersey, Marion Post Wolcott was one of the leading Farm Security Administration (FSA) photographers. Marion’s interest in people was influenced by her mother, Nan, who was an activist for progressive causes and worked with the founder of Planned Parenthood Margaret Sanger (1879–1966). Together they traveled around the US, setting up family planning sites. Wolcott admired her mother’s strong character, compassion, and independence. During her adolescence, Wolcott was exposed to musicians, painters, actors, and free expression. She entered The New School for Social Research in 1928, but shortly after, Wolcott abandoned her studies to pursue dance and moved to Europe as part of a dance troupe.
Due to health issues, Wolcott eventually had to return to the US in the early 1930s, where she started teaching in a small Massachusetts mill town. While teaching, she became increasingly uncomfortable with the dramatic class distinctions between the upper middle class children she taught and the poor from the neighborhood where she lived. In hopes of escaping this situation, in 1932 she returned to Europe to travel with her sister. There, she received her first camera and it quickly became apparent she had a natural talent for photography. In Germany, Wolcott witnessed the rise of Nazi fascism. One of Hitler’s speeches had such a profound effect upon her that she decided to leave Europe.
After returning to the US in 1935, Marion did assignments for Fortune magazine and Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, before a friend recommended that she contact Roy Stryker (1893–1975) at the FSA. When she applied for the job at the FSA, Marion had a mere three years of professional experience using a camera. Stryker took a chance on her and hired her in 1938. Marion continued to work with the FSA until 1942 when she left to start a family with her husband, Lee Wolcott. Although she never returned to the professional field of photography, Marion never ceased to put her camera down; she continued to pursue photography throughout her life.
Kaela Nurmi, '15