The sad story behind the photo of a mother selling her child


This photo is arguably one of the most poignant images ever taken of 20th-century America. According to, the photo above, staged or not, tells a full story. embitter.

The photo was first published in a local newspaper in Valparaiso, Indiana, USA on September 5, 1948. The children were actually being sold by their parents and bought by other families. It wasn’t until years later that the children shared their stories.

Photo: Rare Historical Photos

When the photo first appeared in Vidette-Messenger, it was captioned: “A large sign was erected in the yard of a house in Chicago. It is the sad story of Mr and Mrs. Ray Chalifoux, who had to Faced with an eviction order from their apartment with nowhere to go, the wife decided to sell her four children Lucille Chalifoux tried to avoid the camera while her children were curious. The top ladder is Lana, 6 years old and Rae, 5 years old, the bottom is Milton, 4 years old and Sue Ellen, 2 years old.

According to The Times of Northwest Indiana, it’s unclear how long the sign was in the yard. Some people accused Lucille Chalifoux of receiving money to take the photo, but this allegation has never been confirmed. However, the reality is that the four children for sale end up living in different homes.

Rae, David and Milton before being sold. Photo: Rare Historical Photos

The photo was later republished in many newspapers across the United States and a few days later, the Chicago Heights Star reported, a woman opened her door to welcome the children and numerous job offers and offers of assistance. The financials are sent to the Chalifoux family.

Unfortunately, the help didn’t seem to be enough and two years after the photo was first posted, all the kids, including the one Lucille was pregnant with, left.

Stories of children

Rae and his brother Milton were sold to the Zoeteman family on July 28, 1950, after which their names were changed to Beverly and Kenneth. Their new family isn’t much better either. The two were often chained in barns and had to work long hours in the fields. Milton recalls being called a slave by his new father. At that time, he automatically accepted this name because he did not understand what it meant.

Rae and Milton with adoptive parents. Photo: Rare Historical Photos

While Rae and Milton were never officially adopted, their younger brother David (who was still in the womb at the time of the photo shoot) was legally adopted by a pair of kind but strict parents named Harry and Luella. . David says his adoptive parents are strict but loving and supportive. David remembers riding his bicycle to meet his brothers and sisters and unchain them before returning home.

Rae ran away from home at the age of 17, shortly after suffering a severe trauma. As a teenager, she was kidnapped, raped, and became pregnant. Rae was taken to a home for pregnant girls and upon returning received the child back.

As for Milton, growing up, he reacted to beatings, starvation, and other abuses with intense rage. A judge once considered Milton a threat to society. Milton was put in a mental hospital after being forced to choose between a hospital and a reformatory (a juvenile detention center).

Sue Ellen and Rae reunited. Photo: Rare Historical Photos.

Rae, Milton and David have no idea what happened to Lana and Sue Ellen. However, later on, they were able to connect with each other via social networks. Lana died in 1988 from cancer. Sue Ellen is still alive. Sue Ellen grew up in the East Side neighborhood of Chicago, not far from her original home.

The mother in the photo remarried after selling 5 children, and then had 4 more daughters. Even so, David defended his mother, he said: “As soon as she saw me, she said, ‘You look like your father. I never apologized. Back then, it was survival. Who we are. to judge that? We’re all human. We all make mistakes. I could have thought of you and didn’t want anyone to die.”

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