Warning: Pangs of hunger might occur. Viewers are advised to have a snack in hand as they read below.
As I combed through Frank R. Steed’s scrapbooks, I came across a number of menus that he had collected while serving his country in WWI France. Since the menus were in French, I decided to translate and transcribe them so that they can be read and interpreted by a wider audience. In addition to the translation and transcriptions, the menu data from his collection helps one to further explore the relationship between restaurant options in both America and France during and after WWI.
Steed, Frank R. “Manuscript Journals of Frank R. Steed US soldier in WWI France, 1918-1919.” Villanova University Digital Collections. Accessed December 3, 2015 http://digital.library.villanova.edu/Search/Results?lookfor=steed&type=AllFields
(Hover over the images to reveal translated text)
In “Save a loaf a week, help win the War”: Food Conservation and World War I, I explored food production and food conservation in WWI America in relation to the distribution of these foodstuffs in WWI Europe. I wanted to take this food study a step further: By studying these menus one could better understand how Steed remembered his dining experiences during WWI. However, it is unclear whether Steed collected these menus because he had dined at these places, for their aesthetic value, or for some other purpose. One could argue that even though Steed might have not actually eaten at these restaurants, he nevertheless chose to keep these menus to remember part of his life in WWI France.
Gathering data from menus in the New York Public Library’s online collection can provide context and information for making comparisons and connections between dining options available in both WWI American and France. It is clear that food conservation efforts in the U.S. were encouraged to win the war in Europe. Americans were discouraged to eat certain foods so that it could be sent overseas to soldiers and allies. This begs the question: Were people in France eating more of the foods that Americans were forced to conserve or give up altogether? For instance, the poster below encouraged Americans to eat less wheat, sugar, fats, and meat, causing one to wonder if people in France were mainly eating these food items that were sent over by there American allies. Perhaps this is an avenue of research one could pursue by contextualizing the menus to find out if the restaurants and hotels were still serving these dishes in the midst of a food crisis and World War.
In addition to households, the “Food Will Win the War” campaign also encouraged restaurants and hotels to conserve and serve certain foods.
“In just one week during November 1917, New York City hotels managed to save 96.75 tons of meat. That same November, over 11 million American families signed a pledge to take part in Meatless Tuesdays and Wheatless Wednesdays. The volunteer effort paid off, resulting in a 15% reduction in home food consumption during a 12-month period between 1918-1919.”
See the full post
With the help of Dr. Seth Whidden, a French Professor at Villanova, we translated and studied seven menus in Steed’s scrapbooks, organizing most of the items on the menus into seven categories (each one is represented on the Excel graph above). These seven categories—meat and meat dishes, fish and seafood, potatoes, cheese, vegetables, desserts, and offal—are the most important because the U.S. government encouraged citizens to eat less beef and more fish, seafood, or offal and to cut back on using sugar and fats so those items could be sent overseas. As mentioned above, there is potential for researching and finding interesting patterns in the availability of these foods in both France and America.
In addition to the data from Steed’s scrapbook, there is very similar data included from menus held in the New York Library’s “What’s on the Menu” online archive that had similar dining options and were mostly all from hotel establishments like the menus in Steed’s collection. Initially one might think the meat options would be scarce on both the American and French menus, but it seems as though they appeared about the same number of times in each set (not too far behind the number of fish dishes). However, the number of fish and seafood dishes on the American menus is almost triple the amount on the French menus.
Most importantly, the translation/transcription project makes the menus in Steed’s scrapbook more accessible to viewers. The scrapbook volumes as a whole are a rich resource for studying the life of an otherwise obscure person. Steed’s travels and the ways in which he chose to preserve and curate his experience embody the cultural, social, and political climate of his time, allowing historians to use ephemera that we nowadays take for granted–theater tickets, photos, postcards, menus–to ask new research questions about people living, working and fighting during WWI.
The following process applies to both the American and French menus:
The counted meat dishes include pork, beef, veal, and fowl, and the fish and seafood dishes include fish entrees along with lobster, clams, oysters, and shrimp. Offal dishes include tongue, liver, and tripe dishes. The vegetable category includes individual vegetables that were listed, such as an order of peas or an order of beets, but also vegetable items that were served with a main dish like a steak or fish. The dessert category includes pastries, ice cream, custards, and pies. On some menus, the word dessert was counted as one even though it implies that there was most likely a variety of desserts available but not listed on the menu.
Pictured below is a menu from the Biltmore Hotel, a member of the United States Food Administration.
Cafer du Plessis, Elizabeth. “Meatless Days AND Sleepless Nights: Food, Agriculture, and Environment in World War I America.” PhD diss., Indiana University, 2009.
Hendee, A., Paul Stahr, Charles Edward Chambers, George Illian, artists. U.S. Food Administration (USFA). Educational Division, Advertising Section, 1917, in NARA’s Still Pictures Records Section. Special Media Archives, College Park, MD.
National Archives and Records Administration. Records of the U. S. Food Administration, Record Group 4.
Penfield, Edward, George Illian, Jack Sheridan, Montgomery Flagg, artists. U.S. Food Administration (USFA). Educational Division, Advertising Section, c.1917 and National War Garden Commission, c.1917. National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Records Section, Special Media Archives: College Park, MD.
Ponder, Stephen, . “Popular Propaganda: The Food Administration in World War I,” Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly 72:3 (1995): 539-550. Accessed November 13, 2015.
Frank Steed, an American, traveled through Western Europe from 1918-1919. A theater enthusiast, he attended many famous operas, plays, and ballets. Steed immersed himself in cities like Brussels, Paris, and London, already rich in history in the early 20th century. He collected playbills, ticket stubs, and tour guides and saved them in two scrapbooks to remember his journey. But Frank Steed was not traveling for leisure. He was entangled in the Great War.
Steed, an Army Field Clerk in the US Army, was stationed in France during World War I. He was part of the Casualty Division of the American Expeditionary Forces, which had the primary role of keeping casualty records. Steed’s scrapbooks, however, barely reflect this grim assignment. He saved some documents, memos, and photos that document his wartime experience. However, the better part of what he saved seem like the souvenirs of a tourist. As Steed traveled throughout Western Europe, he saw operas, plays, and silent films, and collected a variety of items – tour guides, postcards, ticket stubs, and public transit maps – that reflected the local culture.
This map tracks some of Frank Steed’s travels for the purpose of tourism. These travels were interpreted by the documents he chose to save in his scrapbook. Not every location connected to one of Steed’s artifacts was mapped. Only mementos dealing with sites of cultural significance were considered. “Sites of cultural significance” were defined as theaters, historic sites, museums, civic buildings, public parks, and architecturally prominent buildings. Steed’s scrapbooks were analyzed for common themes that were able to be accurately and feasibly mapped. Four categories emerged: theaters, Brussels, Paris, and London.
The map is layered so all the points can be viewed at once, or they can be broken down into sections. Select and un-select layers on the sidebar.
Description of Layers
Theaters: View Steed’s travels based on the locations of theaters in England, France, and Belgium that he visited. Click on the points for more information on the show he saw there. Scroll through the photos to view the program pages he included in his scrapbooks.
Tour Guides: Click the points for general information about the three major tour guides that Steed saved in his scrapbooks.
Guide to Bruxelles: See the locations of the major cultural sites of Brussels included in the Anglo-Belge YMCA’s tour guide, which Steed saved and brought back to the States with him in his scrapbooks. Click the points for a brief description of the site and images of the guide pages.
Miniature Paris: Steed kept this small book for his scrapbook, which features 24 illustrations of culturally important Parisian buildings. These included museums, civic buildings, and historic sites. Learn more about the sites and view the illustrations by clicking the points.
Half Day Tours Around London for Men on Leave: Published by the London Underground, this pamphlet suggests tourist destinations and offers directions via public transit. Steed kept this pamphlet in his scrapbook. View the locations of the tours, and click the points for more information on the site and images of the pamphlet.
This map serves as a starting point for further research about the experiences of WWI soldiers who may have also acted as tourists during their time in Europe. It also provokes thought about the relationship between memory and reality. Analyzing and mapping Steed’s tourism travels raises multiple research questions about service, tourism, and memory during WWI.
Was Steed’s experience common?
This map tracks a selection of Steed’s trips in France, Belgium, and England. His scrapbook reflects even wider travels. Why was Steed able to travel so freely? Was this a perk of his position or are there other factors? Why was Steed able to buy opera tickets so frequently? Was he wealthy or did he seek out obscure, inexpensive performances? In fact, most of his playbills are from shows that were enjoying popularity in the early 20th century. Steed seems to have been on trend with the popular culture if his day. Are his travels representative of a significant group or did he have a unique experience?
Why might Steed have saved certain playbills and tour guides?
While there are pages in Steed’s scrapbooks that reflect his service experience, there are many more that document his experiences at theaters, museums, and tourist sites. Why was Steed motivated to save these types of artifacts? Did they elicit the best memories for him? Were playbills and tour guides the most pleasant papers to bring home? Did his scrapbooks develop from a natural process or was he strategic in creating them? There is no way to know the motivations of a person who is long gone, but it is worthwhile to muse about how and why a WWI officer might construct the physical record of their war experiences in a certain way.
What role did cultural events play in how soldiers remembered their experience?
From his scrapbooks, it is evident that Steed spent a good portion of his time in Europe visiting cultural sites. His cultural experiences changed the way he memorialized his wartime experience. In what specific ways might the opportunity to travel, attend shows, and visit cultural sites have impacted Steed’s memory of his general WWI experience? How may his memory have been different if it was devoid of these opportunities?
How closely do Steed’s scrapbooks reflect reality?
It’s hard to say for sure. We know that Steed acquired the Guide to Bruxelles, and that he valued it enough to keep it. However, this is the only evidence the guide provides. There’s no way to know if he actually used the guide. It’s unclear how many of the locations in the guide Steed visited in reality. In the same way, just because Steed kept playbills in his scrapbooks doesn’t mean he saw each play. A friend may have passed them along, or he might have picked them up in his travels without actually attending the shows. Consider how your own scrapbooks, photo albums, personal collections, and social media records may be interpreted in the future. What might a person who has never met you assume about you based on what you have saved?
We may not know with certainty whether Steed visited all the cultural sites represented in his scrapbook. What his scrapbooks do tell us is that, to Steed, these playbills and pamphlets were worth remembering.
(All images used on the map are from Frank Steed’s manuscripts, courtesy of Villanova University’s Falvey Memorial Library. They have been digitized by the Special Collections staff.)
Frank R. Steed was a U.S. Army Field Clerk and medic during World War I. He was assigned to the Casualty Division of the American Expeditionary Forces in France. During his time spent abroad he compiled a collection of keepsakes that he then placed into two scrapbooks. The materials are not affixed to pages in chronological order, but dates noted range from May 1918 to November 1919.
Found within his scrapbooks are various hotel receipts. Using the receipts, this project set out to examine change in urban space. The plan was to map the hotels in their locations circa 1919, and then overlay a present day map to compare the growth and change of European cities post WWI. What ended up being found, however, was that very little changed; in fact, many of the hotels are still in operation
The More Things Change…
The Waverly Hotel
Stayed February 6, 1919
- No longer standing
YMCA Eagle Hut
Stayed on June 21, 1919 -
Now the site of the India High Commision
YMCA St. Andrew Hut
Stayed June 28, 1919
Hotel de la Poste Tilmans
Stayed October 24-26, 1919 - No longer in operation
Stayed November 3, 1919 -
No longer in operation
Frank Steed stayed at The Waverly Hotel in Belfast on February 6, 1919. The Waverly Hotel operated as an affordable lodging option for businessmen and travelers. It is no longer in operation and it is believed that the building no longer exits as well.
On June 21, 1919, Frank Steed traveled to London where he stayed in a temporary YMCA lodging. The Eagle Hut was located at the current site of the India High Commission Building, where there is now a plaque commemorating the temporary structure. The hut served around two million meals from August 1917 to August 1919. It is estimated to have served 3,000 per day, and 4-5,000 on busy days. American pancakes were the most popular items offered, as well as ice cream during the summer.
On June 28, 1919, Frank Steed moved to Edinburgh where he stayed at the YMCA St. Andrew Hut. This temporary location was erected in St. Andrew Square to serve as a lodging and gathering place for military men. It was the second largest YMCA structure to be built during the war, exceeded only by The Eagle Hut.
Although Frank Steed’s receipt does not state the month in which he stayed at this location, it is believed that his stay was from October 24-26, 1919. Hotel de la Poste Tilmans is no longer in operation, and little information can be found on the hotel.
After arriving from Bordeaux, Frank Steed stayed in the Central Hotel on November 3, 1919. The building which once housed the glamorous hotel is now abandoned.
The More They Stay the Same …
Hotel du Pavillon
Stayed February 9, 1919
Hotel du Louvre
Visited on June 21, 1919
Stayed August 16-18, 1919
Grand Hotel du Sablon
Stayed October 23, 1919
Hotel de Berri
Stayed November 4-6, 1919
Hotel du Cheval Blanc
Stayed November 7, 1919
Frank Steed stayed at the luxurious Hotel du Pavillon on February 9, 1919. The hotel is still operating today, under the same name, as a four star hotel in the heart of Paris’ tourist district.
Although Frank Steed did not stay overnight in the luxurious Grand Hôtel du Louvre, he stopped to have lunch on June 21, 1919. Today part of the Grand Hôtel du Louvre has been converted into shops, while the other half operates as simply the Hôtel du Louvre.
Steed stayed at the Grand Hotel from August 16-18, 1919. His receipt indicates that he enjoyed chocolate and lunch during his stay. The hotel is still operating today under the name Vichy Residencia.
On October 23, 1919, Frank Steed stayed one night in the Grand Hotel du Sablon which he noted was a “charming little hotel with an equally charming proprietor.” His receipt lists his stay, along with a lunch to go, and a piece of bread. The hotel is still in operation, under the same name, today.
Frank Steed stayed at the Hôtel de Berri from November 4-6, 1919. His receipt lists his room cost, as well as the cost of chocolate each night and bread on his last night. The Hôtel de Berri is still operating, however, it is now called Hotel Daniel.
On November 7, 1919 Frank Steed stayed at the Hotel de Cheval Blanc. At the time the hotel was operating as an annex to the YMCA’s Hotel Moderne, as noted in Steed’s scrapbook. Today, the hotel is still in operation under the same name
The Changing Cost…
In 1919, the American dollar was worth 7.3090 Old French Francs. The inflated worth of the dollar in France may have enabled Frank Steed to stay in hotels he would not have normally been able to afford. Below is a chart outlining the cost of a few of the hotels Frank Steed stayed at compared to the American dollar in 1919 and to what they would cost today.
Price per room in francs in 1919:
Price per room in U.S. dollar in 1919:
Price per room today*:
Grand Hotel du Sablon
Hotel de Berri (Daniel)
Hotel du Cheval Blanc
Hotel du Pavillon
*cost in American Dollar ($) per each hotel’s current website
The not found…
Stayed October 26, 1919 - unable to locate (Photo courtesy of Falvey Memorial Library)
Hotel - Pension Britannique
Stayed October 28-30, 1919 - unable to locate (Photo courtesy of Falvey Memorial Library)
Two of Frank Steed’s lodgings remain lost. His collection of receipts place him at the YMCA Anvers on October 26, 1919, yet a thorough search for WWI YMCA locations in Anvers, Atwerp, Belgium were unsuccessful. It is possible that there was a hotel accepting YMCA vouchers, much like the Hotel du Cheval-Blanc, as no temporary YMCA location is reported to have been erected in this area.
The second location that cannot be mapped is the Hotel Pension-Britannique. Known to be located in Ostende, Belgium, the street names listed on the receipt no longer exist within the city, leaving its exact location a mystery.
Frank Steed brought home with him keepsakes from his wartime travels in order to commemorate his time spent in the military and at war. He placed them within two scrapbooks so that he can look upon the time in his life, well after he returned to the life of a civilian. The scrapbooks were meant to be memory collectors that marked a time in Steed’s life after he moved beyond it.
In the same way, cities throughout Europe erected monuments commemorating the Great War, but they too moved on with their lives. Citizens continued to live, businesses continued to operate, and many Steed’s hotels continued to stand.
Ascott Robert Hope Moncrieff, Black’s Guide to Sommerset, (Edinburgh: R&R Clarke Limited:1904) advertisement, pg. 5.
Stuart, Great War London: London and Londoners in the First World War, November 21, 2012, accessed December 2015, https://greatwarlondon.wordpress.com/2012/11/21/the-eagle-hut/.
The University of Edinburgh, Scotland’s War, 2015, accessed December 2015, http://www.edinburghs-war.ed.ac.uk/Midlothian/Home-Front-Veterans/American-Hut.
Laura Bang, “Blue Electrode: Sparking between Silicon and Paper,” Falvey Memorial Library: Villanova University, June 29, 2013, Accessed December 2015. http://blog.library.villanova.edu/digitallibrary/2013/06/29/frank-r-steed-in-wwi-paris/.
Women performed noncombatant roles during the WWI in the U.S. and in Europe. Their presence in the war, sometimes overlooked, can be observed through a wide scope of visual culture that circulated during the years of the Great War. Photographs, postcards, and propaganda show different dimensions of the female persona during this period. They were mothers, but they were also providers; they were waiting at home, but they were also in the battlefield healing the soldiers.
The visual culture and printing media that circulated during the Great War reflects the imagery towards gender roles, shows the multifaceted character of the female representations, and women’s engagement in different activities at home and overseas. Giving the inextricable relation between war and gender, the following storytelling portrays and explains some of the female representations of women during the WWI based on propaganda, photographs, and videos I have selected from digital databases related to the Great War. These resources serve to explore in more depth the role of women in the early-twentieth century U.S., which opened a road to women’s involvement in the political and public life of the country.
Women became the “second line of defense” that secured the moral, social, economic, and political sustaining of the U.S. in ways the male soldiers and civil men could not achieve. As Susan Grayzel sustains, World War I was the first modern war that required the full participation of both combatants and noncombatants, altering the battlefield as well as the domestic and social spaces of the Homefront in Europe and the U.S. Even though the outcome of WWI did not radically changed the place of women in society, this epoch did had a great influence in different aspects of the domestic and public life that affected women and men. As well as the image of the country and the male soldiers highlighted the cohesion of a national identity, the visual representations of the war also relied and engaged female imagery. At the same time, the war opened new opportunities for education, employment, and national service for women in the country and overseas, performing duties as nurses, stenographers, factory workers, food producers, among others. The composition of different types of visual culture using female models, especially in propaganda, reflect this transition.
This is a story about female imagery – how they were envisioned during the course of the war.
This project bases on the visual analysis of different photographs and printed media -mostly propaganda- produced and circulated during the course of the Great War. In order to compile and curate the images, I have used the following digital databases:
Printed media and photographs had an important role in the distribution of information by the turn of the twentieth century. Their use seems remarkable during the course of the Great War in which, for example, a great scope of newspapers, commercial photographs, postcards, and propaganda circulated worldwide to keep the population informed.
To construct my story about female imagery in the war, I have incorporated different types of propaganda I have found at the Library of Congress Digital Collection, a very comprehensive database to locate printed media from U.S. and overseas from the early twentieth century. I have also used printed media and photographs from the scrapbooks of Alma Clarke, Frank Steed, and the Scrapbook from the Home Front (anonymous), who offer a personal perception of the war from the angle of three different persons who, from Europe and from Home, gathered, selected, and constructed their memories into scrapbooks.
The comparative examine of these sources -propaganda and scrapbooks- allows to see collective and individual perspectives based on gender, occupation, leisure activities, social interactions, and personal values.
“The Second Line of Defense” goes through a main narrative, divided in four themes. Each excerpt offers a particular view or role I have defined to understand the female imagery during the WWI: Motherland, Healers, Muses, and Providers. Each excerpt is formed by a main argument presented through a comparative analysis of different visual resources. This gives the sense of an “interactive museum,” where in each gallery the user cannot just observe the visual culture but also manipulate the images and learn through the contrast between visual and writing content.
Scroll down the page to read the storytelling. You can also hover over the images to learn more information about their visual content.
If you wish to know about the composition of the storytelling, click here. Meanwhile, enjoy the wonderful story of the female imagery during the WWI.
Motherland: Female Symbolism of National Identity
In the early-twentieth century, the battlefield was considered a place solely for the male warrior to defend his nation. Nonetheless, from a century before the image of the United States had a female face that made the call and unify the people under the same national sentiment. Her name was Columbia.
Roll over the images to learn more about them!
Once the thirteen colonies began to acquire a greater sense of national identity, the image of Columbia emerged to personify this new spirit. The references to Columbia date back from 1697, when Chief Justice Samuel Sewall of the Massachusetts Bay Colony wrote a poem suggesting that America’s Colonies should be called Columbina, a feminization of Christopher Columbus’ last name. But it was not until late-eighteenth century that Columbia acquired a more meaningful place in the way United States depicted itself as a nation in search for independence from Britannia, the female representation of the empire overseas.
Columbiaappeared for the first time in a poem written by Phillis Whatley, a former slave who wrote in 1776 during the revolutionary war. Since then, the image would become a recurrent symbol that unified the country.
Columbia, as well as the national embodiment of the European countries, was inspired in Roman symbols that resembled images of mythical figures. Columbia’s physical attributes and clothes gives her the image a classic goddess. Some of the representations depict her wearing a white draped garment, but during the course of the war it is also common to see her body covered with the flag of the United States.
Beside Columbia, other pseudo-mythical representations took part in the way war propaganda animated combatants and noncombatants to participate in the war. The most popular image, one that remain until our days, is Uncle Sam, who displays a male representation.
Move the arrows at the center of the image to the left or to the right to appreciate the similarities and differences between Columbia and Uncle Sam!
Nonetheless, we can notice Uncle Sam is almost coercive to the viewer, suggesting obedience or threat if the person fails to obey the call for duty. His use to encourage enlistment in the military and working duties during the war suggests his association with the governmental institution. Meanwhile Columbia, a softer and motherly image, would embody the virtuous and protective motherland.
Throughout the propaganda from the period, it is noticed how Columbia became a more powerful symbol to enact national identity, as the voice and the face of the mother -the country- who called her sons –soldiers- and daughters –noncombatant nurses, wives, and workers- to involve in the battle, to take action.
The image of Columbia was used to recruit soldiers as well as to request the help of civilians to contribute with the nation by preserving food, working as volunteers, and performing other duties, such as serving for the Red Cross. Along her, other female representations named Liberty and Victory took part in the advertising that circulated during the war.
Similar to Columbia, these pseudo-goddesses also use draped garments that combined white, the colors of the U.S., and physical features of classic Roman imagery. Nonetheless, these two representations also represented other meanings. Even though they suggested patriotism, their moralizing voices called the population to engage the population in different levels. For the male population, it is common to see Victory, shoulder to shoulder, holding a sword and leading the men with bravery in the battlefield. Liberty, on the other hand, called the attention of the female and the male population in the Homefront, guiding them to produce the land, to enlist the army, to volunteer as nurses.
The use of these different representations highlights the power of the WWI propaganda and shows the circulation of patriotic ideas that sought to create guilt, passion, and bravery among the U.S. population. Their representations, as well as their messages, also expose how men and women played particular roles in the war, the first seeking for victory, the seconds at home, securing the nation’s freedom.
Healers: Nurses in the Battlefield
Columbia called men to join the battle, but she also addressed women to travel away from home and serve as nurses and nurses’ aides for the Red Cross.
The posters from the period show a predominant use of female representations, an embracing and motherly image that suggests the role of nurses as healers of the physical and moral state of the men.
Others images also show nurses serving civilians, they became comforters of a context broken by the destruction of the war. Several posters depict female nurses standing aside of wounded soldiers, while others depict them taking actions holding men, performing medical assistance. There are, on the other hand, photographs of women in action, such as the images preserved in the Alma Clarke scrapbooks.
The relevance of the war propaganda is evidenced in Alma Clarke’s papers. In these, she used photographs along printed media to frame her experience and perception of the war. Alma and many other U.S. American women were part of the healers that aided in the physical and moral assistance of the soldiers in the battlefield.
While Alma captured her memories in a scrapbook, while other healers of the war, such as the British Vera Brittain, compiled her experience in a written memoire titled Testament of Youth. Vera Brittain was a student at Oxford when she decided to train as a nursing auxiliary. Her autobiography, Testament of Youth, records her experience before and during the Great War with profound sorrow by witnessing wounded and deceased soldiers during her time serving in England, Malta and France. Her fiancé Roland and her brother Edward died in combat.
Vera published her autobiography in 1933 and it became one of the most compelling stories about the effects of the war on the women and middle-class civilians in European youth population.
Muses: The War in the Domestic Space
“Knowing the women he loves is safe and waiting for his return becomes far more important to the soldier that the work provided by women as comrades in arms” –Susan Grayzel,Women’s Identities at War (1999).
Perhaps one of the most famous role of the women during the course of the Great War that has perpetuated until our days, is the women who stayed at home, waiting for her beloved one to return. Vera Brittain depicts part of this story, using her own voice to narrate her time in Oxford thinking about her brother and fiancé before deciding volunteering as nurse. This image of the lover, the mother, and the daughter in despair served to recruit soldiers. The messages embedded in the poster argues the necessity of men to involve in battler to defend their families and lovers, as well as for the safeguard of their male honor.
It is interesting to observe how these images affect the construction of men and women that lived in flesh and blood the consequences of the war in their social and family circles. Alma Clarke’s scrapbooks, for example, puts greater emphasis in the images of nurses and nuns as mothers and caretakers. Alma’s memories frame the way in she saw herself as a noncombatant in the battlefield, how the posters of recruitment from the Red Cross highlighted their role to “heal” the damages of the war.
However, Alma does not emphasize the domestic space in the same way as Frank Steed or the author, probably a man, of the Atlantic City scrapbook. The vision of these persons, which we can observe through the scrapbooks, reflect the gender and work relations in the midst of the war. These men, in Europe and in the U.S., compiled almost simultaneously media representing ideal versions of female as inspirational motifs of male heroism and in leisure environments.
The women portrayed by these men always look young, radiant, and smiling. These men, unlike Clarke who relied on her heroism as a nurse in the war, utilized photographs and printed media of real-life muses to create their memories. They focus on an image of female’s positive and embracing images to maintain the spirits high in the midst of a chaotic context.
But even though there were women who stayed at home, their duties went beyond the romanticized idea of the lady in despair. The propaganda that circulated in the country call the attention of the housewives to honor their men and serve their country by rationing food and donating supplies for the cause of the war. These media gives the idea women should serve a sort of penitence while men are overseas sacrificing their lives for them and for Columbia.
Providers: Working Women in the Homefront
While the image of Muses is very popular, the recruitment campaign during the war also aimed at involving women in different duties in the Homefront. The main goal of these tasks was to provide different means: food, weapons, information. Along with the role of nurses, this imagery of women turns empowering and provided a channel of social mobility in the public sphere of the U.S. In the absence of men, women took agency and went to the factories, to the fabrics, and to the farmland.
Then, women became providers, a fundamental system that secured the well-being of the soldiers and the stability of the country.
In terms of resources, the most prominent scope of propaganda targets the role of women working the land, planting the seed, and preserving food.
The image from the right exposes the sentiment that the battle was not isolated in Europe, but it affected the way people saw their quotidian task in the U.S. In this case, women became “the army land,” adjudicating implicit combatant roles that addressed their importance in the production of good for the civilian and military population. The image from the left, which belongs to the “Scrapbooks – the Home Front”, reasserts the role of women as providers, as the sources of the energy that would guarantee the success of the soldiers in battle. Furthermore, the images exposes the women also in a combatant role with her duty, since she is also wearing an uniform. Even though this image seems to be more patronizing than the previous, it does give an idea on how the domestic and the public sphere merged to create the female role of provider.
While the production and preservation of food appears as the most constant theme of the propaganda and printed media, there were also other two roles that increased female’s involvement in the war, as providers of weapons and providers of information.
These four dimensions of female imagery -Motherland, Healers, Muses, Providers- show the multifaceted character that surrounded women’s role in the early twentieth century. They also show the transitions of women from the domestic environment of the home, preserving food, to the public spheres working shoulder to shoulder, reaffirming an active position among men, occupying positions once limited in the past, and serving as examples for the nation. Women in the Great War played important roles that preserved the national sentiments in the home front and the battlefront, that healed the soldiers physically and spiritually. Most of all, these women opened new paths for the following generations, and in the same way as WWI transformed men, countries, and governments, it also changed and reaffirmed the importance of women at family, social, and economic levels.
Hopefully, this storytelling exposes how fundamental the presence of this imagined and real women was for the place female population occupies nowadays!
Pitz, Marylynne. “Hail, Miss Columbia: Once a U.S. symbol she’s lost out to Uncle Sam, Lady Liberty.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2008 http://www.post-gazette.com/ae/2008/03/18/Hail-Miss-Columbia-Once-a-U-S-symbol-she-s-lost-out-to-Uncle-Sam-Lady-Liberty/stories/200803180240
“Columbia (name). Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_%28name%29#cite_note-3”
Prior, Neil. “How Land Girls helped feed Britain to victory in WW1.” BBC News, 2014. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-26238755; Kim, Tae H. “Where Women Worked During World War I.” Seattle General Strike Project. https://depts.washington.edu/labhist/strike/kim.shtml#_ftn15
Patch, Nathaniel. “The Story of Female Yeomen during the First World War.” National Archives 38 3 (2006). http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2006/fall/yeoman-f.html” target=”_blank; “World War I: 1914-1918.” Striking Women. http://www.striking-women.org/module/women-and-work/world-war-i-1914-1918
“Enclosure: Poem by Phillis Wheatley, 26 October 1775.” Founders Online. National Archives. http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-02-02-0222-0002
Susan Grayzel, Women’s Identities at War: Gender, Motherhood, and Politics in Britain and France during the First World War (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press), p. 2.
Women performed noncombatant roles during the WWI in the U.S. and in Europe. Their presence in the war, sometimes overlooked, can be observed through a wide scope of visual culture that circulated during the years of the Great War. Photographs, postcards, and propaganda show different dimensions of the female persona during this period. Women were portrayed as vulnerable and defenseless, but they also played more active roles, ranging from healers, to providers, and embodiment of national identity. All these representations portrayed the imagery towards femininity and gender stereotypes, as well as depicted the changing identities of women during the course of the war.
The visual culture and printing media that circulated during the Great War reflects the imagery towards gender roles, shows the multifaceted character of the female representations, and women’s engagement in different activities at home and overseas. Giving the inextricable relation between war and gender, I created a digital storytelling project that portrays and explains some of the female representations of women during the WWI. The storytelling is based on propaganda, photographs, and videos I have selected from digital databases related to the Great War. These resources serve to explore in more depth the role of women in the early-twentieth century U.S., particularly in the context of the war.
Women became the “second line of defense” that secured the moral, social, economic, and political methods of sustaining of the U.S. in ways the male soldiers and civil men could not achieve. As Susan Grayzel notes, World War I was the first modern war that required the full participation of both combatants and noncombatants, altering the battlefield as well as the domestic and social spaces of the Homefront in Europe and the U.S. Even though the outcome of WWI did not radically change the place of women in society, this epoch did had a great influence in different aspects of the domestic and public life that affected women and men. As well as the image of the country and the male soldiers highlighted the cohesion of a national identity, the visual representations of the war also relied and engaged female imagery. At the same time, the war opened new opportunities for education, employment, and national service for women in the country and overseas, performing duties as nurses, stenographers, factory workers, food producers, among others. The composition of different types of visual culture using female models, especially in propaganda, reflect this transition.
Depicting the Battlefront and the Homefront: Sources
Printed media and keep the population informed. During this period, mass media was accessible and cheaper, which increased their circulation and their conservation, as occurred with the making of scrapbooks and clipping albums. Similarly, the development of technologies during the industrial revolution increased the production of photographs that registered the fast-moving world. The use of photographs expanded the concept of fine arts beyond the canvas and the brush, as well as improved the circulation of information. Photography, in conjunction with printed media, became fundamental forms of documentation and visual representation in the post-WWI era.
Within this context, the wide scope of government propaganda that circulated in the U.S. and Europe is significant for understanding the recruitment of common citizens as combatants and noncombatants of the war. According to David Welch, war propaganda had a significant impact within the public, since their content tackled specific goals of nationalist sentiment.
Propaganda justified the war to the people, helped to promote recruitment into the armed forces, and convinced the population that their sacrifices at home and in the war would be rewarded with victory. Propaganda targeted men to join the military forces, alluding almost to a sentiment of shame if they were unwilling to protect their women and children. These advertising also used a similar discourse calling women to duty, whether helping with food provision for the soldiers or joining the Red Cross to assist men in the battle zone. The messages are usually patronizing when it comes to women, but they also reflect the importance of women –their moral image and their work- in the success of the battle, a message male imagery did not fulfill. I decided to incorporate several types of propaganda I have found at the Library of Congress Digital Collection, a very comprehensive database to locate printed media from U.S. and overseas from the early twentieth century.
By analyzing the scrapbooks from Frank Steed and Alma Clarke, I found recurrent use of visual media -photographs, postcards, and propaganda- showing female symbolism and women performing different roles as workers, nursers, nuns, and even models of leisure and fashion. These scrapbooks offer a more personal perception of the war, from the angle of two different persons who were in the battlefield and gathered, selected, and constructed their memories into a physical form. In this sense, Alma Clarke, a female nurse from the Red Cross and Frank Steed, a male soldier of the casualties division, are two similar but divergent views of the war. The memories they framed in their scrapbooks allow readers to see individual perspectives based on gender, occupation, leisure activities, social interactions, and personal values.
Another enriching source is the Scrapbook of the Home Front. Even though the author remains unknown, we have knowledge the scrapbook is from Atlantic City and was made circa 1918. This source gathers visual elements that circulated in the U.S. during the period when Clarke and Steed were in Europe.
The scrapbook contains different newspaper clips showing images of soldiers going to the war and different female representation, which reflects the inspirational and nurturing vision embedded on the women’s roles.
The Tools: Digital Storytelling
The main goal of this project is to analyze visual culture produced and circulated during the WWI and its relation to the construction of female representations. Hence, a digital storytelling project is an enriching and dynamic way to present this historical theme, which allows to combine writing text, images, and videos in a dynamic way.
Digital storytelling allows to construct compelling narratives with the use of different tools, guiding the user through the topics in discussion with interactive methods. The project is built entirely on WordPress, which allowed me to use different plugins simultaneously. This is a feature that strengths the concept of storytelling with text visualization within the images and comparative exposition of the visual content.
For my storytelling, I have used mainly Visual Slide Box Builder to embed text analysis in the images. This plugin is very useful for appreciating the visual content but also gives the user the opportunity to explore more about their composition and messages with brief explanations. I have also used Juxtapose JS and NextGen Gallery. Juxtapose JS permitted me to create comparative visions of certain images. Meanwhile, NextGen Gallery offers the opportunity to create sets of pictures from a similar theme to observe several examples. By using the three tools, I can create contrasting views of the visual content and examine their similarities and differences in more depth. Moreover, I can create elements that are dynamic for the users, which allow them to make decisions and engage with the narrative of the storytelling.
The structure of the project goes through a main narrative, divided in three themes. Each excerpt offers a particular view or role I have defined to understand the female imagery during the WWI. The sections are 1. Motherland: Female Symbolism of National Identity; 2. Healers: Nurses in the Battlefield; 3. Muses: Longingness and Domesticity; 4. Providers: Working Women in the Homefront. Each excerpt is formed by a main argument presented through a comparative analysis of different visual resources. This gives the sense of an “interactive museum,” where in each gallery the user cannot only observe the visual culture but also manipulate the images and learn through the contrast between visual and writing content.
The user can scroll down the page, as when reading a web article, and hover over the images edited with Visual Text Box Builder to gain more insight and information about the visual content. The images in Juxtapose offer a contrasting view between male and female representations, empowering the visibility of women in the war.
Beside the levels of analysis I expose in the storytelling (motherland, healer, and provider), I would like to identify other feminine identities highlighted during and after the war to expand the multifaceted faces of women during the early twentieth century.
I would like to see how the imagery of women continued once the soldiers returned home and new relations took place once women increased their participation in the productive and political sectors of the U.S. I would like to see if women gained more agency in depicting themselves through the printed media of the epoch. Except for Alma Clarke scrapbook, most of the material used for this project was made by men. Hence, I considering the idea of trying to identity later images produced and designed by women compelling, especially during the suffragist movement in the 1920s.
Overall, this project has thought me how important noncombatant individuals were for the outcome of the war, and how a battle that engaged multiple nations had such an impact in the quotidian relations of women, children, and men. Soldiers were fundamental to win the battle, but women, those who usually remained relegated to a minor place in history, also played a fundamentals roles in the outcome of the war. This is my tribute to them.
Susan Grayzel, Women’s Identities at War: Gender, Motherhood, and Politics in Britain and France during the First World War (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press), p. 2.
Alison Nordström explains how, by the end of the nineteenth century, the availability of mass produced visual culture also enhanced the culture of collecting and scrapbooking in the U.S. Alison Nordström, “Making a Journey: The Tupper Scrapbooks and the Travel they Describe,” in Photographs Objects Histories, Elizabeth Edwards and Janice Hart ed. 81-95 (New York, Routledge, 2004), p. 88.
Katherine Ott et al, “An Introduction to the History of Scrapbooks,” in The Scrapbook in American Life, Susan Tucker, Katherine Ott and Patricia Buckler ed., 1-21 (Philadelphia: Temple University, 2006), p. 7
Juliana Kreinik, “An Introduction to Photography in the Early 20th Century,” https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-1010/beginners-guide-20-21/a/an-introduction-to-photography-in-the-early-20th-century; Department of Photographs, “Early Documentary Photography”. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/edph/hd_edph.htm
David Welch, “Propaganda for Patriotism and Nationalism,” British Library http://www.bl.uk/world-war-one/articles/patriotism-and-nationalism
The Library of Congress has a very rich of collection of material from the U.S. and other countries. To see more examples of WWI propaganda, visit: http://www.loc.gov
Following the guidelines of The Goggles Manifesto, a digital storytelling should be grounded on a linear script that guide the user through the exploration of the topic. Transom.org, May 30 2012, http://transom.org/2012/the-goggles-welcome-pine-point/”>http://transom.org/2012/the-goggles-welcome-pine-point/
Frank R. Steed volunteered as a Field Clerk in World War I and compiled a two volume scrapbook between May 1918 and November 1919. Steed served as an Army Field Clerk and medic, assigned to the Casualty Division of the American Expeditionary Forces in France. According to a letter from his superior, Colonel Ernest G. Smith, Steed was diligent, dependable, and kept spirits up for the unit.
His scrapbooks contain mainly photographic evidence, but also include various postcards, official documents, tickets, brochures, drawings, and maps. Steed’s scrapbook records experiences he had traveling to small towns and big cities, like Paris, London, Brussels, and Dublin. He also included notes from family and friends, which allows the reader a glimpse of how correspondence worked at this time and how Steed interacted not only with friends and acquaintances in Europe but with family back home in the United States.
According to the digital library blog post on Steed’s scrapbooks, it is possible he tried to see and do as much as he did in Europe as a welcome distraction from his dismal work with the Casualty unit. Whether that is the case or not, the scrapbooks provide an interesting slice of life for an American traveling abroad during the early 20th century and are surprisingly similar in content to what a modern day student might collect while studying abroad. Today, trips abroad, especially to study abroad, are becoming more and more commonplace for people in Steed’s age bracket. That is not to say the study abroad experience today is at all similar to why Steed was in Europe, but what he did with his time off was definitely comparable to what a student traveler might do today. Going to plays, trying new food, sightseeing, taking walking tours – these are all things Steed did and things tourists continue to do to this day.
Even the way he preserved his memories of his travels is similar to how people document vacations today. Sure, the technology used to do so has advanced, but people still do scrapbook. In fact, scrapbooking has become ever more elaborate since Steed’s time. And those who don’t keep physical scrapbooks still do scrapbook in a way. Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, and the Cloud could all be considered digital scrapbooks for the pictures people take with their smartphones and digital cameras. The selfie is new, but taking photographs of and with monuments or scenery haven’t changed much in the past century.