An exhibition from the Franco-American Museum, Château de Blérancourt, Picardy, France, with testimonials from letters in the Anne Morgan archives at the Morgan Library and Museum.
In 1917, a small team of women, appalled by news of wartime destruction, left comfortable lives at home to volunteer in the devastated regions of France. Their dynamic leader was Anne Morgan (1873–1952), wealthy daughter of the late financier Pierpont Morgan. She was already well known for her public opposition to social injustice – notably the mistreatment of immigrant garment workers at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory – but it was in war-scarred France that she found her life’s passion. As she rallied potential volunteers and donors on speaking tours across the United States, Morgan employed documentary photography to foster a humanitarian response to the plight of French refugees.
The photographs and silent films were commissioned by the American Committee for Devastated France, the volunteer civilian relief organization that Morgan founded with her friend Anne Murray Dike (1879–1929). Full-page images ran in American newspapers, sets of prints were sold for three dollars a dozen, and films were screened in movie houses throughout the United States. These haunting views of ruined French towns, portraits of refugee families and children, and tableaux of American volunteers at work illustrate not only the human cost of war but also the potency of photographic propaganda.
The images exhibited here are modern silver prints of vintage photographs.
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of the Florence Gould Foundation and the American Friends of Blérancourt.