Katherine Joseph’s Photographic Legacy Comes to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History

March 4, 2007

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has received an important collection of negatives, prints and documents produced by photographer Katherine Joseph during World War II. Joseph’s daughter, Suzanne Hertzberg, who discovered the cache of prints, negatives, contact sheets, handwritten notes, clippings and a journal kept by a traveling companion after her mother’s death in 1990, donated the archive to the museum.

Joseph’s photography career spanned more than 10 years (1937 – 1948), during which she worked as a staff photographer for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. She photographed political personalities, labor leaders and garment factory workers on the job; and, in 1941, she traveled to Mexico on an extensive photojournalistic expedition. Some of her photographs were published in both the United States and Mexico. After World War II, Joseph gave up her photography career to raise a family.

The archive consists of 500 photographic prints and negatives and related documents, which capture several interwoven stories. These include the American home front during World War II and the work culture of this era’s female workers. Joseph’s intimate travel photographs provide insight into United States–Mexico relations; and Joseph’s personal story, told through photographs, coupled with a biography written by her daughter demonstrate the changing and conflicting roles of women.

The Joseph archive complements holdings already in the museum’s collections and archives related to labor unions, photographic history, women’s history and the American home front during World War II.

“Katherine Joseph’s photographs offer us an insightful glimpse into a moment in history and will allow historians a better understanding of the role of women working in America before and during World War II,” said Brent D. Glass, director of the National Museum of American History. “We are honored that Suzanne Hertzberg has chosen to place her mother’s important legacy with us.”

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. Documenting the American experience from Colonial times to the present, the Museum looks at growth and change in the United States. The Museum is closed for major renovations and will re-open in summer 2008. For Smithsonian information, the public may visit the Museum’s Web site at http://americanhistory.si.edu or call (202) 633-1000, (202) 633-5285 (TTY).