At the beginning of the 20th century, in Thaon-Les-Vosges, in Lorraine, France, a group of young female workers, decided to secretly devote themselves to God. These “secular virgins”, these followers of Christ attempt as best they can to convert their co-workers of the laundry factory, and fight against illiteracy by organizing evening classes.
In 1905, when State and Church are legally separated, these young women engage against secularity, and become even local heroines of sorts, by maintaining against all odds an underground network to carry on teaching the now forsaken teaching of forbidden beliefs (classes organized in cellars, sisters on the look out for fear of police patrols and police raids…). It’s probably at this period that the militant vocation of the Bernadette sisters –as nicknamed by the locals– developed.

In the early 30s, this religious militancy takes form and is expressed more radically by a specific audiovisual catechism teaching method, called the Bernadette Method. Through this teaching method, the sisters not only intended to piously educate youth but also to use pictures and images to fight against the pictures and images of the world (secular press, pornography, cinema, modern art…).
The first catechism volume is a “Life of Jesus” in 150 silhouette pictures, that is 150 prints that can cover the walls of a room. Dated 1934, this volume is designed and reproduced in stencil technique. A few years later, due to the ever increasing number of orders coming from French parishes and colonial missionaries the technique changes from stencil to hand drawn ink designs which are then printed in large numbers.

At the height of their activity, just after WWII and during the 50s, the Bernadette community counts 40 women. As authors, the “Bernadette Sisters” are a group of ten people, each in charge of a specific part of the production of the prints. At the heart of it all, is the parish priest of Thaon-Les-Vosges, Father Bogard, who chooses the themes and Sister Mary of Jesus, who designs and draws the pictures according to Bogard’s instructions.
This “religious art studio”, will function in that way for a good 30 years, till 1965 at the death of Father Bogard. In 1967, the Method is definitely forbidden by the Catholic Church. Sister Mary of Jesus dies in 1969.

In 2006, the Bernadette sisters (who in the meantime finally became part of the catholic Church per se and created a congregation) who are no more than three leave their historic residence. Before leaving, they were eager to authorize and facilitate the publication of a book by the Editions Matières, and also donate a great number of documents to the city of Thaon-Les-Vosges and the Nicéphore Niépce Photography Museum in Chalon-sur-Saône (France).

In 2008, the Nicéphore Niépce Photography Museum organised a show on the Bernadette Method.
The bookshop and gallery Le Monte-en-l'air presented a selection of original prints and post cards of the Bernadette Method.