Contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940, Martha Hopkins (202) 707-9331
View the exhibition online.
September 13, 1995
Exhibit Features Women Journalists in World War II
An exhibition, "Women Come to the Front: Female Journalists, Photographers and Broadcasters During World War II," will be on view at the Library of Congress in the Madison Gallery on the first floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., September 28 to December 9. Exhibition hours are Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The exhibition marks the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II and the 75th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. The September opening commemorates the 1919 founding of the Women's National Press Club by a group of Washington newswomen.
The exhibition of 106 documents, letters, diaries, broadcast transcripts, unpublished photographs, articles and memorabilia, many of which have never been on display before, will be shown in the context of the 1930s and 1940s. The items depict opportunities and barriers during the war and prewar years, and highlight the lasting contributions women reporters made to wartime coverage, both at home and on the front.
The exhibition highlights the achievements of eight women: Therese Bonney, Marvin Breckinridge Patterson, Esther Bubley, Elisabeth May Craig, Janet Flanner, Toni Frissell, Clare Boothe Luce and Dorothea Lange. The journalists were selected for their important contributions to wartime coverage and because the Library holds significant material by and about them.
Therese Bonney (1894-1978) was educated at Berkeley, Harvard, Columbia and the Sorbonne. She settled in Paris in 1919 to pursue photography. After the war began, she came to believe the conflict threatened European civilization itself. Her principal photography subject was the uprooting of innocent civilians. Her concept for a film about children displaced by war became the Academy Award- winning movie The Search (1948).
Marvin Breckinridge Patterson (1905--) was a free-lance photojournalist. When war broke out in 1939, she took the first pictures of a London air-raid shelter. She was new to radio when her friend, Edward R. Murrow, hired her as the first female staff broadcaster in Europe for CBS. Upon her 1940 marriage to an American diplomat, she voluntarily ended her broadcasting career and resumed taking photographs. However, the U.S. State Department barred their publication, claiming they would hamper the work of her husband, Jefferson Patterson, in Berlin.
Esther Bubley (1921--) arrived in Washington, D.C., in 1941. Fresh out of art school, she was eager to earn a living with her camera. She found work as a lab technician at the Farm Security Administration (FSA). During off-hours, she snapped wartime subjects around the nation's capitol. Her images led to her recruitment by the FSA successor organization, the Office of War Information. She used her camera to document the activities of average Americans assisting in the war effort on the homefront.
Elisabeth May Craig (1889-1975) made a career working for Gannett newspapers as a Washington correspondent. She covered World War II with the same keen eye and sharp tongue that informed her daily "Inside in Washington" column for 50 years. When not anchored in the nation's capital, Craig provided her Maine readership with eyewitness accounts of bombing raids in London, the Normandy campaign and the liberation of Paris.
Janet Flanner (1892-1978) was a columnist for The New Yorker for five decades beginning in 1925. Based in Paris, she was famous for her "Letter from Paris." She also produced commentary on European politics and culture. During World War II she wrote seminal pieces on Hitler's rise (1936) and the Nuremburg trials (1945). She also did a series of weekly radio broadcasts for the NBC network during the months following the liberation of Paris in late 1944.
Toni Frissell (1907-1988) is remembered today for her high- fashion photography for Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. During World War II, she volunteered her photographic services to the American Red Cross, Women's Army Corps (WACs) and the 8th Army Air Force. She produced thousands of images of nurses, front-line soldiers, WACs, African American airmen and orphaned children. Many of her photographs, such as one of an elite corps of African American fighter pilots, were intended to encourage positive images.
Clare Boothe Luce (1903-1987) is best remembered as a congresswoman (1942-1946), ambassador, playwright, socialite and spouse of magazine magnate Henry R. Luce of Time-Life. She covered a range of World War II battlefronts, and experienced bombing raids in Europe and the Far East. She was placed under house arrest in Trinidad by British Customs when a draft Life article about poor military preparedness in Libya proved too accurate for Allied comfort.
Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) documented domestic changes wrought by the war, especially among ethnic groups and uprooted workers. Three months after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the relocation of Japanese-Americans to armed camps in the West. The War Relocation Authority hired Lange to photograph Japanese neighborhoods, processing centers and camp facilities.
The work of these eight women exemplifies that of female correspondents who fought for and won the right to cover the war. By 1945, 127 American women had secured official military accreditation as war correspondents, if not actual front-line assignments, while other women journalists remained on the homefront to document how the country changed. The exhibition, made possible by a gift from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, opens a window on this generation of women, who changed American society by securing a place for themselves in the newsroom and on the battlefield.
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