American Red Cross Posters and the Cultural Politics of Motherhood in World War I

Citation:

Lopez, P. J. 2016. “American Red Cross Posters and the Cultural Politics of Motherhood in World War I.” Gender, Place & Culture 23 (6): 769–85. doi:10.1080/0966369X.2015.1058764.

 

Author: P. J. Lopez

Abstract:

Scholars have long held that World War I markedly impacted women's participation in the public sphere as questions of appropriate wartime participation for women arose. Posters were an important tool for communicating notions of feminine citizenship and patriotism during the US involvement in the war. In this article, I explore the influence of the US involvement in World War I on social constructions of white femininity and citizenship through their portrayal in American Red Cross posters produced between 1914 and 1919. These posters offer a distinct visual documentation of the cultural shift in the portrayal of, and the insistence on, white women's – particularly nurses’ – responsibilities during wartime. I argue that the sentiments and language of the newly splintered women's movements were co-opted into the service of the war and were further emboldened with religious sentiments. American Red Cross posters called upon women to enact their presumed innate nurturing tendencies, and by extension, their feminine citizenship, at both the home and warfronts. In this way, the labor of the private sphere was drawn into the service of the war but without fully admitting women into the public sphere.

Keywords: gender, World War I, nurses, American Red Cross posters, patriotism, citizenship

Topics: Armed Conflict, Citizenship, Gender, Women Regions: Americas, North America Countries: United States of America

Year: 2016

© 2017 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at info@genderandsecurity.org.