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Memoir Historical Investigation for Margaret Bourke-White By: Ronnie Kerem


Primary source:

I am using a photograph. The photograph is taken by Margaret Bourke-White, a famous photographer. It shows a preacher, in Cleveland in the town square. Margaret was so talented; she caught the birds just as she started to fly from the ground. At that time, it was considered impossible to be able to catch something in that exact moment. The picture was taken in 1928, the beginning of her career. I chose this source because it shows her pure talent. Even before she had a lot of experience, she was one of the first people to be able to be so precise and get the perfect timing.


Secondary source: My secondary source is an article, “Margaret Bourke-White” it is about Margaret’s life. It talks about her family, her accomplishments, her education, her birth-place etc. This article differs from the book because the book mainly focuses on her career rather than her background information. I chose this source because the book doesn’t talk about the very small details that are not related to her career. For example, the book didn’t mention that she was married twice, in fact the book didn’t even state that she was married in general. The details in the article reveal more about her personal life instead of her career. It might help the reader understand more about Margaret and what sort of person she was. NAME: Margaret Bourke-White BIRTHDATE: June 14, 1904 BIRTHPLACE: The Bronx, New York FAMILY BACKGROUND: Her father, Joseph White, was of Polish-Jewish background. He was an inventor and an engineer. He believed in equality in education and opportunity for all his children. Margaret's mother, Minnie Bourke, was of Irish-English ancestry and was a loving and nurturing mother. Minnie was completing her college degree at the time of her death. Margaret was married twice; once to Everett Chapman, when she was but 18 years old; and to Erskine Caldwell, the writer, in 1939, after they had worked together. They divorced in 1942. EDUCATION: Margaret Bourke-White attended several universities throughout the United States while pursuing a degree in Herpetology (the study of reptiles). They included Columbia University in New York, the University of Michigan, Purdue University in Indiana, Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and she received her degree in 1927 from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Margaret began to study photography as a hobby while a very young woman. She developed the styles and techniques that she needed for various formats on her own. Her father was also somewhat of a camera enthusiast and he exposed her to the wonders of the photographic lens as a youngster.


DESCRIPTION OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Margaret Bourke-White is a woman of many firsts. She was a forerunner in the newly emerging field of photojournalism, and was the first female to be hired as such. She was the first photographer for Fortune magazine, in 1929. In 1930, she was the first Western photographer allowed into the Soviet Union. Henry Luce hired her as the first female photojournalist for Life magazine, soon after its creation in 1935, and one of her photographs adorned its first cover (November 23, 1936). She was the first female war correspondent and the first to be allowed to work in combat zones during World War II, and one of the first photographers to enter and document the death camps. She made history with the publication of her haunting photos of the Depression in the book You Have Seen Their Faces, a collaboration with husband-to-be Erskine Caldwell. She wrote six books about her international travels. She was the premiere female industrial photographer, getting her start in Cleveland, Ohio, at the Otis Steel Company around 1927. PLACE OF DEATH: Connecticut DATE OF DEATH: August 27, 1971


Review and summary: I believe that an 8th grader would like this book because the book gives a lot of detailed information about her career. For example, “Then miraculously, some generous neighbors at home offered to pay her tuition” The book is full of these small informative details and they give the reader more information. These details also make the book more fun to read because they give you something to think about. Also, the book gives the reader a lot of interesting facts, making the book more enjoyable for the reader. For instance, “Margaret decided to go to Cornell University...It was her fifth school” Margaret moved through so many schools because she was unsatisfied with her previous schools. These interesting facts help the reader see that in the end everything comes together. All the decisions that she made in her career were influenced by these small facts that the author gives.


Review: This book is about the life of Margaret Bourke-White. She was a photographer in the 1920s-1950s. In fact Margaret was one of the first female photographers. It talks about her achievements in life and what led her to become famous, how each decision took her a step closer to being the great photographer that she was. There are chapters that describe her personality traits such as her honesty, her point of view on life, the bad/good times in her career etc. The book gives very clear information and is written at an 8 grade level. The book also has a lot of pictures that show what kind of artist she was. I personally, found the book very enjoyable.


Ronnie Kerem Ms. Cross LA8 D October 2012 The key to my life Gazing at the stunning view in front of me; my eyes teared up and my heart pounded with joy. I did it. I had finally reached the Grand Canyon. My eyes widened at the sight never before seen. Taking out my camera I took deep breath of the cool air as I took my first picture. People were searching for me; especially my family. I had left for the canyon without telling them, but this journey was about me, not about my home or family. Just about me. Nature and me. Even so I was aware that this would be dangerous. After all, this was still considered newly discovered area, it was only 1923 and well, I was only 38 years old. Several individuals had already been there, but was there anybody who had come back alive? Well that was a chance I had to take. At that time my plan seemed daring and courageous but who knew that just a few short months later, I would be paying the price for my decision… At home, three months later I curled in my bed under the raggedy blanket. My skin turned as white as snow as I coughed blood. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do to stop it. I was sick and I sensed that I didn’t have much time left. I turned my body so that I could glance at my camera for the last time but it was out of sight. My heart started beating faster and faster, and my breath got shorter and shorter. Where was my camera? Was it lost? How would people know where I had been and who I was? Would they recognize me, Margaret Bourke–White? Those words were


the last few that went through my mind. Shortly afterwards, my muscles rested as I got weaker and weaker and my eye lids slowly touched. My time had come…

Epilogue- One year later Its been a year. A full year since they buried me in the ground. Regretfully, I knew I had made a mistake. How did I ever think of going to that canyon alone? Without telling anybody, without food or water and with only one thin blanket. I was selfish, and careless. I hadn’t thought of anyone but myself while making that decision, I was thinking; why would I need to tell my family that I was about to disappear? This wasn’t about them, it was about me. But I was wrong. It had everything to do with them. However it was too late now. In the living room Mother swayed on her oak chair as she heard the phone ring. She answered, “Hello?” “Hi Mrs. Bourke. This is Arnold speaking” Arnold was a friend of Father’s. He was helping Mother and Father sell my apartment. “I have some excellent news. My friends want to buy Margaret’s apartment” Arnold cheered. “Oh, that’s wonderful” Mother didn’t sound very convinced. She didn’t want to sell the apartment. Instead, she wanted to hold on to every last bit of memory left of me. “Finally, after a year, somebody wants it!” Arnold repeated.


“Yes it has been a long time. Arnold, I am afraid I’ll need to call you back later” Mother replied as her eyes started to water and her lower lip trembled. A single tear slid down her soft cheek but she swiped her tear across her face like a brush on a canvas.

Shaking, Mother sat down. “Darling, what’s the matter?” Father’s tone softened as he rushed towards her. Mother told Father about the news regarding the apartment. Someone wanted to buy the apartment so they would have to be there tomorrow to sign some papers. “It will be alright Minnie. Don’t you worry darling.” Father comforted mother. “I miss her, Joseph. All I want is my daughter …” Mother could barely get through her sentence. “I know, darling, I know.” Father comforted her, wiping her tears with his large finger. As the long hours of the night passed the sun’s bright light peeked through the window of Mother and Father’s apartment. Mother slipped her feet inside her furry slippers. She stood up and made her way to the kitchen to prepare her morning tea. Anxiously, she tapped her foot on the marble tiles as she waited for father to wake up.


Finally, it was 7:00. Mother and Father waited at the apartment and constantly checked their watches. A few short minutes later, Arnold came with a young couple and introduced them to Mother and Father as they toured through the apartment. “And… that seems to be it. We went through the kitchen, living room, bedroom, and bathroom. So…what do you think?” Arnold asked eagerly. “I think we will take it, but we have one question, there is a camera on the very top of the closet in the bedroom. Does that come with the apartment?” The couple wondered. Ignoring the question, Mother’s eyes suddenly lit up with hope as Father trembled with excitement. The camera was the only key to my life. It was like a documentary of all my adventures and “Could that be true? Is it Margaret’s?” Mother prayed staring at Father. Mother and Father hurried to what used to be my bedroom. Father reached his hand to grab the camera from the top of the dusty closet. “It’s true darling, it’s Margaret’s” Father reassured Mother as he blew the dust off the camera. “This is it Joseph. All Margaret wanted was for us to find her photographs. She had no chance to say goodbye or share with us all of her adventures and now it will be almost like she tells us herself. We can finally fulfil her last wish. ” Mother reminded Father even though he didn’t need to be reminded. “Yes darling, yes…” Father replied.


Work Cited: Primary source: Bourke-White, Margaret. A Preacher and His Parishioners. 1928. Photograph. Portrait of Myself, Cleveland. Book Cited: Rubin, Susan Goldman. Margaret Bourke-White. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999. Print. Secondary source: Women in History. Margaret Bourke-White biography. Last Updated: 3/31/2012. Lakewood Public Library. Date accessed 10/11/2012 . <http://www.lkwdpl.org/wihohio/bourmar.htm>. Cover Photo Goldman, Susan. "Margaret Bourke White [Hardcover]." Margaret Bourke White: Susan Goldman Rubin: 9780810943810: Amazon.com: Books. Amazon.com, 29 Dec. 2001. Web. 09 Nov. 2012. <http://www.amazon.com/Margaret-Bourke-White-SusanGoldman/dp/0810943816>.


Ronnie's Memoir