- For Home and Country: World War I Propaganda on the Home Front
In For Home and Country: World War I Propaganda on the Home Front, Celia Malone Kingsbury delivers a careful, and cautionary, historical analysis, one that focuses on World War I as a home-front battle in which women and children played vital roles. Her engaging five-chapter analysis begins with a late-twentieth-century historical frame, one that refers to the anti-war (anti-propaganda) song-smithing of Bob Dylan and Green Day, but from which Kingsbury quickly turns to focus on an investigation of the multi-dimensional home-front practices that prepared, encouraged, and steeled Allied women and children for a particular kind of participation in the Great War. Kingsbury equips her readers in her introduction with critical terminology derived from "classic sociological theory," in her phrase, which she relies upon throughout the study. Specifically, she employs two key concepts of Ferdinand Tönnies' from the late-nineteenth century that concern "mass society" and "public opinion": Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft (the first of which may be "translated as 'community'" and the second as "society") (23). While Tönnies has been "sometimes overlooked" according to Kingsbury, [End Page 229] she deploys his terms regularly throughout her text, using them to ground her various examinations and to offer the study's crystalline and central message: that women and children were "enlisted" into war service through the work of various propagandistic media, ranging from the cover art of sheet music to the free promotional children's books distributed at jewelry stores. Kingsbury wishes her study to be fear-inducing because it reveals the carefully wrought work of propaganda texts and images, both of which were produced from within panoptic Allied governments as well as by obliging and "patriotic" private citizens.
"Propaganda violates one of the foremost tenets of democracy," Kingsbury writes, "that of the educated population making decisions based on facts" (267). Women at home—who were responsible for caring for children, managing household finances, and disseminating national(ist) ideals within the family unit (and sometimes outside of it)—were denied the brutal subtleties as well as certain facts concerning the war and were instead offered, or fed (along with their Crisco or cornmeal), propaganda texts and images. The purpose of these, Kingsbury argues, was to teach women to leverage the family unit, the Gemeinschaft, into a position of vital service to the Gesellschaft. This central idea of Kingsbury's study is one that she frequently repeats, as if a refrain. Her chapters include visual and textual analyses of "domestic science" materials (related to food production, consumption, and rationing), magazine fiction designed for women readers, textual representations of military and nursing roles for women (texts that depicted service to the Red Cross and Voluntary Aid Detachments, whose women were known as "VADs"), fiction series for adolescent girls that championed enterprising courage simultaneously with the preservation of traditional women's roles, and texts and cartoons specifically aimed at children.
To examine the manifold propagandistic media on which she focuses and to reveal how all of them collaborated to encourage women and children on the home front to "serve the state in the service of family" (to such a degree that the directionality of this "service" often reverses and perhaps "merges," as she says), Kingsbury includes rich and varied visual examples. Throughout the text, readers encounter argument-appropriate and representative images, which range from reasonably well-known World War I military enlistment posters to examples from Kingsbury's own personal collection of materials, such as children's books that bear the imprint of children's use of them (in one salient example, she includes an image from the British children's book Ten Little Sausages that reveals the child-owner's own attempt to draw a bayoneted sausage, a clear representation of the "Hun" enemy). Kingsbury shows how the family became a key strength of the Allies' war effort; the family became "a Kaiser-fighting unit" (100). Popular juvenile fiction...