Born at the Bronx in New York, Margaret Bourke-White was the daughter of Joseph White, a non-practicing Jew. She spent her childhood and grew up in Bound Brook, New Jersey. Margaret completed her graduation from Plainfield High School in Union County.
Margaret learned the art of perfection form her naturalist father, an engineer, and inventor, while she learned developed an unapologetic desire for self-improvement from her resourceful homemaker. Margaret had two siblings, a younger brother, and an elder sister.
While her brother, Roger, became a prominent Cleveland businessman and high-tech industry founder, her sister, Ruth, became famous for her work at the American Bar Association in Chicago.
Margaret’s keen interest in camera and photography started as a hobby as a young and free-thinking woman, one of the reason she is included in our hall of fame. She was immensely supported by her father, who was extremely enthusiastic about cameras.
Though Margaret was fascinated by photography, in 1922, she started studying herpetology at Columbia University. The reason behind her decision is that she only wanted to have her interest in photography strengthened after studying under the guidance of Clarence White.
However, she quit from Columbia University merely after one semester, following her father’s demise. Later, she transferred to different colleges several times including the University of Michigan, the Purdue University in Indiana, and the Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.
Ultimately, in 1927, Margaret Bourke-White completed her graduation from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Here, she left behind a photographic study of the rural campus for the school’s newspaper and also some photographs of her famed dormitory, Risley Hall.
A year later, in 1928, she moved from New York to Ohio. Here, in Cleveland, Ohio, she began started a commercial photography studio and also began concentrating on architectural and industrial photography.
In 1924, while she was pursuing her studies, she married Everett Chapman. However, the couple got separated within two years.