Brief presentation on the lives of Therese Bonney, Janet Flanner, and Erika Mann.
Presented by Frances Quaempts-Miller
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Well regarded writer.
Janet became a European
correspondent for the
New Yorker. Her tenure
with the publication lasted
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.
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.
Born in Munich Germany
Eldest daughter of Nobel
prize winning writer
Thomas Mann & wife
Her closest sibling was
Klaus Mann. He said “our
solidarity was absolute and
Studied theater in Berlin
starting in 1924 and it
remained a lifelong passion
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.
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.
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.
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.