Friday, March 29, 2013

Mary Coin by Marisa Silver

Mary Coin is the story of two women struggling during the Great Depression. Photographer Vera Dare, who began her career taking formal photographs of the society women of San Francisco, left her children in the care of another family and traveled into the rural parts of California, photographing migrant farm workers. Mary Coin was one of these migrants, a widow with six children who traveled from one California farm to another, working for any employer who would hire a woman for his picking crews. When their paths crossed, Mary was at her lowest point. A freeze had killed the crops she hoped to pick. Her car had broken down and money was scarce. She and her children were dirty, hungry and exhausted, living in a tent. The Great Depression and her husband’s death had taken her from poverty to destitution, from a family who never had anything to a family who had nothing.  Vera took several photographs of Mary and her children. One of these pictures became an iconic symbol of the era. Although Vera became famous, Mary remained anonymous and neither woman profited financially. People and families are shaped in part by their experiences, and in later, more prosperous years, Mary’s children were close and protective of her while Vera’s became distant and cool.  More than seventy years later, Walker Dodge, a college professor, has come to suspect that his family has a connection to the famous photograph. He investigates the evidence, but too much time has passed and he is never able to ferret out the truth.