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From Litho Stone to Pentium Chip: Interpreting Gender in U.S. World War I Posters

1

Anonymous (after A.M. Upjohn)
Untitled (Happy childhood), n.d.
lithograph mounted on board
35 1/2 x 22 3/4 in. (sheet); 37 1/2 x 24 1/2 in. (board)
95.3.47

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The Future of the Red Cross by Siri Baschnagel '99
This World War I poster shows the image of a young white girl with blond hair and blue eyes who is wearing a pink dress.  She is playing with a kite and looks more Northern European than American.  The girl is standing on a hill alone while in the background younger boys and girls are in a circle holding hands.  Displayed towards the bottom of the poster are the words, "Happy Childhood the World Over.  Join the Junior Red Cross." 

The intention of this poster was to recruit children into volunteering for the Red Cross.  Children absorb more information and values without questioning, so this poster serves to teach and promote patriotism to children.  This image symbolizes how the children are the future of the American Red Cross. 

The depiction of the younger girl shown in the middle of the poster is to target young girls to join the Red Cross because women have always been associated with healing and nurturing in society.  Therefore, the poster may serve as a way of socializing girls towards careers traditionally seen as nurturing, such as nursing or teaching. 

However, there are no African-American children depicted in the poster, only white middle class children.  The rationale for not depicting African-American children may be because it was more likely that when African-American men went off to war, their children or wives would go into factories or obtain jobs in order to support their families. 

Junior Red Cross members were involved in many activities during the war, including the production of relief articles and the operation of war gardens.  Through the Junior Red Cross, schoolchildren were organized all around the country to promote patriotism and to support the war effort. 

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Happy Childhood by Aneisha Persaud '99
During the war, the government tried to get as many women and men to assist in the war as possible.  The government convinced to become nurses to help heal injured soldiers.  Loyalty and nationalism were the keys to getting men involved. 

This poster was used as a propaganda tool mainly focused on schoolchildren.  It was a way to let children feel the same loyalty as their parents.  The Junior Red Cross had different tasks for the children; some made rugs and afghans for military hospitals while others learned about vaccination techniques for special health education programs.  These health classes were mandated for all members of the Junior Red Cross. 

This particular propaganda poster was directed towards younger children.  In the background, there is a sense of solidarity among these children.  The clothing that each youngster is wearing tells the observer that different parts of the world are represented.  They are all joining hands playing in a circle.  Even though each child is from different culture, they can get along and have fun.  If you join the Junior Red Cross you can enjoy your childhood with children from other cultures and countries.  An example of this is the slogan "Happy Childhood the World Over." 

The young girl in the front of the poster is enjoying flying a kite.  She is an example of the joy and happiness one will experience as a member of the Junior Red Cross.  This poster also suggests that it is safe for children to be outside enjoying the environment while the war is going on.  The children seem to also feel a sense of security as members of this group. 

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