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Lesbian War Correspondents Presented by Frances Quaempts-Miller

Lesbian WWII Correspondents

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Brief presentation on the lives of Therese Bonney, Janet Flanner, and Erika Mann.

Text of Lesbian WWII Correspondents

Page 1: Lesbian WWII Correspondents


War Correspondents

Presented by Frances Quaempts-Miller

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There were relatively few openly out lesbian and bisexual women in the 1930’s and 1940’s. This was especially true for women who worked in traditionally male dominated

fields. For lesbian and bisexual war correspondents, daring to have their attractions, partners, and proclivities

known could be dangerous to their careers and livelihoods.

Here are some details about the lives of three extraordinary women who documented WWII and

followed their hearts.


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Born in New York in 1894

Lived in California from age

5 until graduation from The

U of C at Berkeley.

Graduated with a doctorate

from the prestigious

Sorbonne University in


Modeled in Spain and Paris.

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War and its effects on children

were carefully examined and

depicted by Bonney’s

photographs during WWII.

Her books depicting the war

include: War Comes to the People & Europe's Children.

Bonney engaged in “truth raids”

in order to bring greater visibility

to the world about the horrors of

war. She was twice decorated for

military honor & was the official

photographer for the French

Military. http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/wcf/wcf0007.html

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Though there is not much in the way of proof that I

found that Bonney was indeed a lesbian, she was friendly

with other known lesbians. Bonney was extremely

private about her love life and never married, which was

common for LGBTQ people during the time she lived.


Therese was a gender

outlaw, especially for her

time. She said “women

should wear pants in war”

& always tried to get as

close to battle as possible.

This a photo Therese took of famous

lesbian and intellectual Gertrude Stein.

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Born in Indiana in 1892

Her mother was a poet &

her father killed himself

when she was 20.

Attended the University of


Letter from Paris was her

first published piece that

debuted in the New Yorker

in 1925.

Well regarded writer.

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Janet became a European

correspondent for the

New Yorker. Her tenure

with the publication lasted

five decades.

She wrote important

pieces documenting the

life of Hitler and the

Nuremburg trials from


Flanner reported on the war

via journalistic radio

programs. Her 10 minute

programs were broadcast

throughout Europe. She

returned mainly writing

after the war ended.

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In 1919 Janet Flanner met Solita Solano, a journalist for

the National Geographic. Though Flanner was married

to William Rehm at the time, she and Solita became

lovers. Solita would be known as the love of her life.

They were depicted in Djuna Barnes book Ladies Almanak as “Nip and Tuck.” Eventually Janet divorced

Rehm and moved on to other relationships with women. http://popartmachine.com/art/LOC+1168105/%5bJANET



In 2000 William Murray, son of

Flanner’s long-time partner Natalia

Danesi Murray wrote a book called:

Janet, My Mother, and Me. In it

Murray describes his time spent

with the captivating Flanner and her

relationship with his mom.

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Erika Mann


Born in Munich Germany

in 1905.

Eldest daughter of Nobel

prize winning writer

Thomas Mann & wife

Katia Mann.

Her closest sibling was

Klaus Mann. He said “our

solidarity was absolute and

without reservation”

Studied theater in Berlin

starting in 1924 and it

remained a lifelong passion

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In 1938 Erika and her brother

Klaus reported on the war in

Spain. A few years later she

moved to London & became a

reporter for the BBC.

Mann reported on WWII with

other correspondents, some of

whom became her lovers including

Betty Cox and Annemarie


Erika wrote a book about the Nazi education system entitled

School for Barbarians. The next year she & her brother

published a book on German exiles. Like Janet Flanner,

Mann, was on of the few to report on the Nuremburg trials.

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Erika acted in one of the first

lesbian films created titled Mädchenin Uniform (1931).

Her first lesbian relationship was

with Pamela Wedekind, who was

engaged to her brother Klaus at the


Mann legally married twice. Her first marriage ended after two

years. Her second marriage to poet W. H. Auden was known as

a “lavender marriage.” They never lived together but remained


Both Erika & Klaus were investigated by the FBI for politics

and homosexual activities. Klaus committed suicide in 1949.

Soon after Erika moved to Switzerland to be near her parents.

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Therese Bonney, Janet Flanner, and Erika Mann

were three women who were not only brave

enough to report on and/or photograph WWII,

but these women followed their hearts in a time

when being a lesbian was as dangerous as any


These three are not only war heroes but examples

of the importance of human diversity and

courage in the face of internal & external wars.

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Aldrich, Robert, and Garry Wotherspoon. Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History. London:

Routledge, 2000. Print.

Murray, William. Janet, My Other, and Me: A Memoir of Growing up with Janet Flanner

and Natalia Danesi Murray. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000. Print.