Uniforms Made War Work Visible

Women used uniforms to highlight their war service during World War I, even if they were not in the military.  Uniforms helped women make the case that even those who did not serve in the military had done war service, therefore entitling them to the right to vote.

This is a poster promoting the Young Women’s Christian Association which advocated to empower women amongst several other things. This poster depicts four young women in military looking uniforms, walking alongside two horses, carrying gardening tools and carrying a basket of food. The poster reads “The girl on the land serves the nation’s needs” implying that working the land, or garden, and taking care of the outside work helped the nation during its war time. Before the war, farming and outside work was mainly a man’s job, but this poster encourages young women to get outside and help her country by serving the land, through joining the Y.W.C.A. Land Service Committee. 

This song emphasizes how women who had never worked as farmers were ready to serve their country. The song described two individuals, Nellie, who was a “pedagogue”–that is, a teacher–and Sue, who was a “social light,” what we would call a socialite. After describing their place in their society their country was hindered then “they both set out to fight.” Even though these women were unaccustomed to field work, when their country needed them, they were ready to drop everything to protect what was theirs. 

This poster by Carter Housh, in 1917, depicts a woman standing alongside two men with Uncle Sam above her.Her hat identifies her as a member of the “House Wife’s League,”which also indicates that she signed the pledge to waste no food and to conserve and preserve, as the title of the poster states. She is wearing an affordable, blue Food Administration uniform designed by a woman in the Women’s Committee in the Council of National Defense to look like a military uniform. Her attire gave the “House Wife’s League” a feeling of uniformity and togetherness. togetherness, but it also marked women’s work in the Food Administration as similar to the work of soldiers’ jobs. Women wore military-style uniforms for other home-front activities. Their uniforms made their war service more visible. Women used their uniforms and war service to argue that they too should have the right to vote.

The fact that women did serve in the US military helped them This poster is promoting women to join the Marines. Our society in past decades felt as if men were the only ones that could fight for our country. When the US military realized it needed women to serve in the Army, Navy, and Marines, artists created posters like these to promote women to join these organizations.

Contributors:  Amanda Alexander, Gemini Strickland, Riley Provence, Hope Harness, and Katlyn Stapleton.

Learn more about this whole suffrage centennial project, created by teams in Dr. Kim Little’s HIST2302:  America in the Modern Era First-Year Seminars.