Today, Ms. Mollie Orshanky, best know for her work on poverty, would have been 100 years old. Her research became the foundation for the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Though this measure has been criticized, it is important to remember Mollie Orshansky’s work was groundbreaking for its time.
On her birthday, it is worth pausing to remember who she was and some of the ways she shaped our understanding of poverty.
Who was Mollie Orshansky (1915-2006)?
The daughter of Ukrainian immigrants, she grew up in New York City with her five sisters.* Although her family had a strong work ethic, her father, at times, struggled to provide for his large family. During these times, Mollie would accompany her mother as she stood in bread lines for assistance in feeding the family.
These early experiences shaped how she thought about poverty and what that economic condition meant to the people in it. When talking about her work on the poverty measure she would often remark, “If I write about the poor, I don’t need a good imagination–I have a good memory.”