Cover image for Restless spirit : the life and work of Dorothea Lange
Restless spirit : the life and work of Dorothea Lange

Publication Information:
New York : Puffin/Viking, 2001, c1998.
Physical Description:
122 p. : ill. ; 26 cm.
Reading Level:
970 L Lexile
Personal Subject:
Added Author:
A biography of Dorothea Lange, whose photographs of migrant workers, Japanese American internees, and rural poverty helped bring about important social reforms.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book J 921 LANGE 1 1
Book J 921 LANGE 1 1

On Order



Dorothea Lange's desperate and beautiful pictures of migrant workers in California and her heartbreaking photographs of Japanese Americans interned during World War II put human faces on some of the darkest episodes in America's history. Restless Spirit is an intimate portrait of a woman who struggled to balance her passion for her career and her love for her family, all while producing some of the most celebrated, powerful photographic works of their time. Told by Lange's goddaughter, National Book Award finalist, Elizabeth Partridge, Restless Spirit is a testament to this brilliant photographer's work.

Author Notes

"I grew up in a large, eccentric family in the San Francisco Bay Area. My grandmother was photographer Imogen Cunningham, and my grandfather, Roi Partridge, was an etcher. There were five kids in my family, and we lived in an enormous house full of dogs and cats, chameleons, fish, tortoises, and even a pet tarantula.

My father, Roi Partridge, grew up loving photography and helping his mother, Imo, in the darkroom. When he was just seventeen she sent him to apprentice with her friend, photographer Dorothea Lange. Over the next few years he was gradually drawn into Dorothea's family. When he married and my parents had kids, we were included in the diverse bunch of children, step-children and grandchildren that made up Dorothea's family. Thanksgiving, Christmas and Fourth of July were all made magical by Dorothea's extraordinary celebrations and rituals.

In 1974, I was the first student to graduate with a degree in Women's Studies from the University of California at Berkeley. A year later I went to Great Britain to study Chinese medicine, earning a Licentiate of Acupuncture in 1978 and returning to the Bay Area to practice acupuncture and herbal medicine.

In the early nineties I began writing books as well as practicing medicine. I love the wide array of genres within the field of children's books, and especially enjoy writing biographies, historical fiction, and picture books.

My first book, Dorothea Lange: A Visual Life (Smithsonian, 1993) was followed by a middle grade novel, Clara and the Hoodoo Man (Dutton, 1996), and Restless Spirit: the Life and Work of Dorothea Lange (Viking, Fall 1998), a photo biography for young adults. Pig's Eggs came out last year (Golden Books, Spring 2000). Oranges on Golden Mountain has just been released (Dutton, Spring 2001), and will soon be followed by an easy reader, Annie and Bo (Spring 2002) and my biography on Woody Guthrie (Viking, Spring 2002).

I still live in the San Francisco Bay Area with my husband and two sons, practicing Chinese medicine and writing books."

copyright © 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6 Up-As a photographer, Lange specialized in documentary-type portraits, seeking to capture in people's faces the stories of their lives. Through the years of the Great Depression and the Second World War, she recorded the down-and-out, the oppressed, the needy. Her portrait "Migrant Mother" has become a familiar icon of hardship, a symbol of the dislocation and poverty caused by the dust bowl in the 1930s. Her camera recorded the Japanese Americans sent to internment camps in the 1940s, and in later travels she preserved the images of children around the world. As a young girl the author knew Lange and was, through her photographer father, connected with the intimate circle of Lange's family and friends. She uses personal memories; her subject's own written words in diaries, interviews, and letters; and especially a liberal selection of dramatic photographs to show the talent and the complex personality of this extraordinary woman. It was hard for Lange, in the decades in which she lived, to pursue her career while balancing family responsibilities and personal crises. She was independent, even radical, in her political thinking and social philosophy. Her story resonates with issues of gender, social policies, artistic merit, and human interest. This well-constructed, sympathetic biography deserves many readers and is a must for every library.-Shirley Wilton, Ocean County College, Toms River, NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Horn Book Review

(Intermediate, Older) Dorothea Lange was an artist with the camera, a social historian, a precursor of the women's movement, and-as this biography demonstrates-a free spirit, conscious of her own destiny and willing to sacrifice an ordinary life to become extraordinary. There are two other fine biographies of Lange: Robyn Montana Turner's Dorothea Lange (Little), a picture book biography for younger readers, and Milton Meltzer's Dorothea Lange: Life through the Camera (Viking) for a slightly older audience. Excellent as these are in translating the life and work of a complicated individual into a form accessible to their respective audiences, neither can quite match the impact of Partridge's book, with its lavish display of Lange's photographs. Some, such as ""Migrant Mother,"" are familiar images; others are less well known. Supplementing these are numerous photographs of Lange herself with members of her family, on location, or celebrating holidays. That the author is the daugh-ter of Lange's photographic assistant, Ron Partridge, adds depth and credibility, particularly to the description of a ritual-filled Thanksgiving family gathering. The facts of Lange's life are cogently recorded: her uncomfortable childhood growing up as a polio victim in Hoboken, New Jersey, and commuting each day with her librarian mother to New York City's Lower East Side; her desire to become a photographer; her diffi-culty assuming the conventional roles of wife and mother; her passionate determination to maintain her individuality. This latter point, the theme of the book, is captured in one of the many quotations from Lange herself: ""I have a very great instinct for freedom. Anybody cuts into that and I churn."" The oversized format and glossy stock add a classy look to a thoughtful presentation that will engage the attention of many readers, including adults. With a bibliography and index. m.m.b. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

A fascinating biography of the world-famous photographer, written by the daughter of Lange's assistant in the 1930s. Born Dorothea Margaretta Nutzhorn in 1895 in New Jersey, she was stricken with polio at age seven, and later spoke of it as ""the most important thing that happened to me. It formed me, guided me, instructed me, helped me, and humiliated me."" Taking her mother's maiden name when she began her professional photography career, Lange went from portraits to documenting the ""disastrous human consequences"" of the Great Depression. ""I had to get my camera to register things that were more important than how poor they were--their pride, their strength, their spirit,"" she wrote about photographing migrant workers in California. She also photographed sharecroppers in the South and Japanese-American internment camps during WWII. Lange's life has been well-documented, but Partridge's conversational tone and intimate details of the Lange household will draw readers in. She also makes vivid Lange's lasting contributions; her photographs--many of which have been reproduced in these pages--captured some of the darkest episodes in American history and continue to touch all who ponder them. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Gr. 6^-12. Lange's stirring black-and-white photographs, more than 60 of them, exquisitely reproduced, provide the drama in this biography of the famous camera artist. Here are the famous pictures that brought the nation up close to the man on the bread line during the Depression, a migrant mother unable to feed her children, a sharecropper in the South, a homeless child on the road, a Japanese American family interned during World War II. The beautiful, spacious design of this photo-essay, with thick quality paper, clear type, and brief quotes from Lange at the head of each chapter, invites you to come back and look and look at her work. The pictures show how Lang got close to people and that she caught her subjects in relation to harsh, powerful events and to one another. Partridge draws on letters, journals, and oral history to give a strong sense of Lange's personal struggles as a child, a wife, and a mother; her lasting pain at her father's desertion; her shame over the disability caused by a childhood bout with polio; and her awareness as an adult that that vulnerability helped her in her work. The author also provides an insider's viewpoint: as a child, she knew Lange. Partridge's father became Lange's assistant at the age of 17, and he worked with her for years in the field and in the darkroom. Many of the photos of Lange in the book are by him, including some of Lange with the child Elizabeth. Like Freedman's, Martha Graham [BKL Ap 1 98], this fine photo-essay will interest adults as much as teens. A Junior Library Guild Selection. --Hazel Rochman