War's mindless uprooting of innocent civilians provided the principal subject for photographer Therese Bonney (1894-1978) during World War II. Bonney's images of homeless children and adults on the backroads of Europe touched millions of viewers in the United States and abroad.
Educated at Berkeley, Harvard, Columbia, and the Sorbonne, Bonney settled in Paris in 1919 to pursue photography and promote cultural exchange between France and the United States. The outbreak of World War II appalled Bonney, who believed the conflict threatened European civilization itself. Of her "truth raids" into the countryside to document the horror of war, Bonney said: "I go forth alone, try to get the truth and then bring it back and try to make others face it and do something about it."
Not content with publishing solely in mass-circulation newspapers and magazines, Bonney sought other opportunities to present her work. She published the photo-essay books "War Comes to the People" (1940) and "Europe's Children" (1943) and mounted one-woman shows at the Library of Congress, the Museum of Modern Art, and dozens of museums overseas. Bonney's concept for a film about children displaced by war became the Academy Award- winning movie, "The Search" (1948). A media star herself, Bonney was the heroine of a wartime comic book, "Photofighter."
Bonney's Account of War in Finland
'How Peace Came to Finland', Photogravure Section, Washington Post December 8, 1940
Solo "Truth Raids" Won Public Spotlight
Dorothy Dunbar Bromley, Therese Bonney Brings Back Pictorial Record of Europe's Tragic Children, New York Herald Tribune, February 28, 1943, Section V, p. 3
"A Woman Needs to Wear Pants in War"
[Bonney in ski suit], c. 1940 New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection.
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (8)
"Truth Raid" Photos Debuted at Library of Congress
Invitation to Exhibition Opening, November 15, 1940
Bonney's Book Based on Exhibitions
Therese Bonney, War Comes to the People, London: The Penndock Press, 1944, (left page) (right page)
War's Effect on Civilians Explored in Exhibits
Therese Bonney, [Took Refuge in Barns], c. 1940, Prints and Photographs Division Reproduced courtesy of the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
Bonney Twice Decorated for Military Bravery
Therese Bonney wearing medal], February 1942 New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection
Aid for War Victims
Therese Bonney, [So few have understood, the Quakers, Red Crosses---nuns,] c. 1940.
The Price of War for Children
Therese Bonney, [Timidly---they climb the walls to would-be homes in gutted houses] c. 1940. Reproduced courtesy of the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
Lives Uprooted by War
Therese Bonney, [Meals cooked in the fields,] c. 1940. Reproduced courtesy of the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
Bonney's Book of Photos of Children
Therese Bonney, Europe's Children, New York: Plantin Press, 1943
Bonney Story on the Big Screen
Advertising poster for The Search, Loew's Inc., 1948