The Coral Gables Museum, which celebrates, investigates and explores the civic arts, will present an exceptional exhibition of period photographs that chronicle the work of Anne Morgan’s American Committee for Devastated France. The traveling exhibit “American Women Rebuilding France 1917- 1924” will open Thursday, Sept. 10, and run through Nov. 28.
The photographs, donated by American activist Anne Morgan, are from the collections of the Franco-American Museum, Château de Blérancourt in Picardy, France. Since 2010, Morgan’s high-quality vintage photos have visited New York, Denver, Chicago and Indianapolis. The traveling exhibit coincides with the 101st anniversary of World War I.
In 1917, a small team of women, appalled by news of wartime destruction, left comfortable lives at home in the United States to volunteer in the devastated regions of France. Barred from voting or serving in active combat, these women instead directed their considerable energy toward international relief work to counter the devastation of war.
Their dynamic leader was Anne Morgan (1873-1952), a wealthy daughter of the late financier Pierpont Morgan. As she rallied potential volunteers and donors on speaking tours across the United States, Morgan employed documentary photography to foster humanitarian response to the plight of French refugees. In the tradition of Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale, this group of women lived alongside the rural people of Picardy, a region of northern France that had been ravaged during World War I.
The photographs and silent films produced were commissioned by the American Committee for Devasted 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.
This special exhibition is supported in part by the American Friends of Blérancourt, The Florence Gould Foundation, the French Ministry of Culture and Communication and RMN l’agence photographique.
Located at 285 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables Museum’s mission is to celebrate, investigate and explore the civic arts of architecture and urban and environmental design, including fostering an appreciation for the history, vision, and cultural landscape of Coral Gables; promoting beauty and planning as well as historic and environmental preservation for a broad audience, including children, families, and community members, as well as local, regional, national and international visitors. The museum optimizes its mission by cultivating effective partnerships, and providing programming that includes exhibitions, collections, educational offerings, lectures, tours, publications and special events. The museum is the Official Visitors Center of the City of Coral Gables. For more information about educational programs or volunteering, visit www.coralgablesmuseum.org.