Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Papers of Harry S. Truman
Staff Member and Office Files:
Fleur Fenton Files

Date: 1946.

Special Consultant, Famine Emergency Committee, Media Programming Division, Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion.

The files of Fleur Fenton document her work as a consultant to President Truman's Famine Emergency Campaign of 1946, which sought to alleviate severe famine conditions plaguing Europe after the Second World War. The collection includes many scripts of radio broadcasts orchestrated by Fenton as well as correspondence and memos between Fenton and various media outlets, documenting her active role in informing the American public of the threat of global famine situation and promoting food conservation in American homes.

[Administrative Information | Biographical Sketch | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List]


Size: Approximately 1500 pages.
Access: Open.
Copyright: Harry S. Truman donated his copyright interest in writings in these files to the United States government. Documents created by U.S. government officials in the course of their official duties are likewise in the public domain. Copyright interest in any other writings in these files is assumed to remain with the authors of the documents, or their heirs.
Processed by: James R. Fuchs (1956).
Updated by: Peter Mann (2002) as part of the Truman Library Internship Program.
Supervising Archivists: Randy Sowell and Carol Briley.

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1908 (January 20) Born Florence Freidman, New York City
1946 Special Consultant, Famine Emergency Committee
1946 (December 27) Married publisher Gardner Cowles, changed name to Fleur Cowles
1947 Asssociate Editor, Look magazine
1949 Associate Editor, Quick magazine
1950 Founder and Editor, Flair magazine
1953-55 Member of national advisory committee on women's participation in Civil Defense Administration
1953 (June) Special representative of President Eisenhower (with rank of special Ambasador) at coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
1955 Divorced, married Tom M. Meyer
1959 Author, The Case of Salvador Dali
1960s-1990s International one-woman art exhibitions
1996 Author, The Best of Flair
2009 (June 5) Died, Sussex, England

[ Top of the page | Administrative Information | Biographical Sketch | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List ]


Fleur Fenton's brief career in the Truman Administration was just one of a multitude of professions in which she gained distinction. At the time of her appointment as consultant to the Famine Emergency Committee, Fenton also held business interests in an advertising agency and in motion pictures, both of which she maintained, although with less priority, during the Famine Emergency Campaign of 1946. Under her married name, Cowles, she went on to achieve success in the world of journalism as Associate Editor for both Look and Quick magazines, and also founded the acclaimed yet short-lived art/style/literary magazine Flair. As Fleur Cowles, she wrote more than 10 books, including an authorized biography of Salvador Dali, and has won international fame as a surrealist/magical realist painter, appearing in more than 51 one-woman exhibitions around the globe. She also received honorary commendations from France, Great Britain, Brazil, Greece, and Spain. But even before she achieved such multi-faceted international presence as Fleur Cowles, in 1946 Fleur Fenton was already being introduced abroad as "America's Million Dollar Girl".

These files document Fenton's work with the Famine Emergency Committee in 1946 after her appointment in the early spring of that year, working under the close supervision of the Committee Chairman, Chester C. Davis. As a Special Consultant in the Media Programming Division of the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion, Fenton's role was to organize publicity for the Famine Emergency Campaign in an effort to inform and mobilize the public towards conservation. The Campaign's platform was an appeal to the American people to help fight famine and save lives by cutting down on their household cereal consumption by 50% and growing "victory gardens" to provide nutritious fruits and vegetables as substitutes for the forsaken calories. The idea was that with such conservation practiced on a mass scale, food distribution would be altered, freeing up more grain for export. This platform appealed to the American sentiments of fear and compassion by emphasizing the millions of children in Europe who would die of starvation by the end of the year, as well as the unstable political environment that a world of empty stomachs and desperate souls would engender.

The collection has only one series, a Subject File. The folder topics cover the many media organizations Fenton communicated with as well as the personal correspondence and intra-Committee memoranda she amassed over the course of a few months, both before and after her postwar trip to Europe during which she witnessed the threat of famine firsthand. In the collection are several transcripts of radio broadcasts Fenton helped write and organize, promoting food conservation and informing the public of the ongoing crisis beyond U.S. borders. Through her correspondence, Fenton also coordinated Famine Emergency Campaign publicity in several magazines, including Time, Life, Mademoiselle, and Seventeen. The files provide insight into the wide network of communications required to launch a national campaign and mobilize the American people to action during a critical few months in 1946.

More information about the President's Famine Emergency Committee can be found in the Charles W. Jackson Files and in the Official File of the Harry S. Truman Papers (OF 950).

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Container Nos. Series
1-2 SUBJECT FILE, 1946
Radio scripts, memoranda, notes, telegrams, letters, receipts, newspaper clippings, and other items. Arranged alphabetically.

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Box 1

  • Army Show
  • Book of the Month Club, Inc
  • Broadcast Outline
  • Broadcast, Monday- Clayton, Anderson, Davis and Straub
      [1 of 2]
      [2 of 2]
  • Broadcast, Tuesday- Commentator's Roundup
      [1 of 2]
      [2 of 2]
  • Broadcast, Wednesday- Miss Fenton
      [1 of 2]
      [2 of 2]
  • Broadcast, Thursday- Elinor Lee, Mrs. Nesbitt, Lucile Cohan
    • [1 of 2]
      [2 of 2]
  • Broadcast, Friday- BBC
  • Broadcast, Saturday- Hazel Markel
  • Broadcast-Breneman- McNeill
  • Broadcast-Douglas- Clapper- Luce
  • Broadcast-Harriman- Clapper- Fenton
  • Broadcast-Elinor Lee- Fleur Fenton
  • Churches
  • Correspondence
  • Famine Emergency Committee Council [empty folder]
  • Famine Emergency Committee Reports
  • Fenton, Mildred
  • Fenton- Personal
  • Fenton- Photographs
  • Inter-Office Memos
  • Labor Plan
  • Life
  • Media Programming Division- Miscellaneous
  • Motion Pictures

Box 2

  • Office of Education
  • One World Club
  • Photographs
  • Prose [poems by Irving Caesar]
  • Quotation
  • Red Cross- Office of Education [empty folder]
  • Retailers
  • Reynolds (Mrs.)- Questions and Answers
  • Roosevelt, Mrs.
  • Station WOL
  • Time
  • Victory Gardens

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