The Plague Of Overweight: Photographer Martha Holmes Documented The Struggle Of Obesity People In 1950s America

“Bulging at beach in 1949, 197-pound Dorothy Bradley self-consciously leaves locker room for swim. She covered up embarrassment by being jolly and gregarious”.

Martha Holmes/Time & Life Pictures

“The most serious health problem in the U.S. today is obesity.” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? But that pronouncement about obesity’s primacy in the hierarchy of national health problems is not new. Rather, it’s the opening line to a remarkable article published 60 years ago in LIFE magazine. This photographs made by Martha Holmes to illustrate that March 1954 article, titled “The Plague of Overweight.”

Dorothy Bradley, photographed for LIFE magazine article on obesity, 1949.

Martha Holmes/Time & Life Pictures

“Hungry at drugstore after a day’s work earning money for nursing school, Dorothy envies slim girl’s milkshake, orders lemonade without sugar for herself”.

Martha Holmes/Time & Life Pictures

Dorothy Bradley squeezes through turnstile, 1949.

Martha Holmes/Time & Life Pictures


Martha Holmes/Time & Life Pictures


Martha Holmes/Time & Life Pictures

Dorothy Bradley eyes dress in a store window, 1949.

Martha Holmes/Time & Life Pictures

“Embarrassed at shop because she wears a size 40, Dorothy tries on new dress. A friend encouragingly points out that dieting has reduced waistline by two sizes”.

Martha Holmes/Time & Life Pictures

“In gym in New York sweat-suited Dorothy finds workout did not by itself remove pounds but did help avoid flabbiness as she lost weight dieting”.

Martha Holmes/Time & Life Pictures

Dorothy Bradley works out in 1949.

Martha Holmes/Time & Life Pictures


Martha Holmes/Time & Life Pictures

Dorothy Bradley meets with a nutritionist, 1949.

Martha Holmes/Time & Life Pictures

Dorothy Bradley measures her waist, 1949.

Martha Holmes/Time & Life Pictures

Dorothy Bradley tries on a dress, 1949.

Martha Holmes/Time & Life Pictures

Dorothy Bradley works out in 1949.

Martha Holmes/Time & Life Pictures


Martha Holmes/Time & Life Pictures

“Now down to 155 pounds, an attractive Dorothy dances at Navy Ball”.

Martha Holmes/Time & Life Pictures

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