Social Education 58(2), 1994, pp. 89-91
National Council for the Social Studies

Convincing American Women to Join in the Efforts to Win World War I:A Lesson Plan

Cynthia S. Sunal and Mary E. Haas
Throughout most of history, most wars were fought by small groups of professional soldiers. This was no longer the case during World War I. The governments of warring nations including the United States called upon large numbers of citizens, including women, to join in the war effort by taking actions that they had never before been asked to take. To gain the support of women, governments mounted campaigns to inform them about the needs and convince them to take certain actions. In this lesson, students are asked to propose ways to rally people during a crisis and to examine how the U.S. government attempted to rally American women to join in the war effort.

1.Identify the specific actions the government asked women to take in the war efforts during World War I.
2.Offer logical explanations for asking women to conserve, join volunteer groups, or enter the military during World War I.
3.Identify specific devices through which the government appealed to the patriotism of women.
4.Evaluate government posters by comparing them to the present use of advertising techniques and explain how changes in technology might account for the differences.
5.Work cooperatively in groups.

Lesson Procedures
Explore what students know about ways to rally groups of people to any cause by having them work through a general problem-solving situation. Divide the class into small groups and distribute a copy of "America Has a Crisis" to each student.

America Has a Crisis
America has a crisis, and although we need a leader, the solution to the crisis requires the cooperative effort of the vast majority of the people. Your task is to convince the youth of America to join in the effort to confront and solve this crisis.

1.List all the ways you can think of that will get this message, both its general concerns and specifics, to the youth of the country.
2.After you have completed your list, rate each of your ideas according to the potential impact you think it may have. Use three ratings: High, Medium, and Low.
When groups have had sufficient time to perform the tasks, have a whole class discussion in which the groups share their assignment and create a class list of suggestions. Suggest that the crisis was a major war being fought in another nation a long distance away. Ask students the following questions: Which suggestions on the class list do you think would be used to rally the nation's people for a war? Which ideas on the list would not be used? Which groups in the country would you expect to receive the focus of attention if the crisis were a war? Have students make a list of specific resources that would be needed for a war. Then add the name of at least one target group that would be needed to produce each resource.

Explain that during World War I, the type of warfare was one in which troops fought over long lines called fronts, bringing massive destruction to the land and villages. Therefore, many people were forced to flee their homes and live as refugees. The war lasted much longer than anyone originally expected, so these problems continued for years. The United States became the major supplier of food, clothing, and military equipment for not only American troops but also those of the allies and for many of the refugees. In order to supply these additional needs, more producers had to be found.

One group called upon to become producers for the war effort were women. The U.S. government and its agencies actively campaigned to get women to do a variety of things to help in the war effort.

Organize students into small groups, and have them examine postcards showing reproductions of posters produced during World War I by agencies of the U.S. government.1 The questions below will help them with their analysis.

Guide Questions for Examining World War I Posters
Your groups should carefully examine the World War I posters and then discuss and answer these questions. Use the data presented in the posters to help you answer or challenge each other's comments and conclusions.

1. What are your first impressions of the reproductions?
2. Which has the most appeal to you? Why?
3. Which two do you think were most effective in getting the desired responses from women? Why?
4. Which poster asked women potentially to sacrifice the most?
5. What attitudes toward war are expressed in the military recruitment posters?
6. In what ways have attitudes toward war changed between World War I and today?
7. Have you seen a recruitment poster or other advertisements that attempt to get women to join the armed services today? If so, describe it to members of your group and tell where you saw it. Discuss what pictures and words would most likely be on a recruitment poster today.
8.What military jobs do you think were most needed to be filled during World War I? Which of these needs could women fill? Which positions do you think were actually filled by women during World War I? (Additional research will be needed to test this hypothesis.)
9.Judging from the suggestions on the posters, what behaviors could the greatest number of American women perform that would help in the war effort? Explain specifically how these would be helpful.
10. Why do you think Joan of Arc was used on a poster encouraging people to purchase war bonds? What message do you think this poster is trying to convey?
After the students have had sufficient time to examine and discuss the posters, summarize with a whole class discussion. Call on the spokesperson for each group to review the answers to the questions. Conclude the discussion by comparing your predictions from the last class discussion with what the students found in examining the poster reproductions. Have the class decide how accurate their predictions were and point out any errors. Students should be asked to explain why some of their predictions were in error and assess the role of the posters for their learning. Ask them when they reflect on the posters, can they see any propaganda techniques being employed?

Expand students' understanding of the efforts to recruit women into military service during the 20th century by examining a poster from World War II. Ask the students to compare the appearance of the women, the attitudes expressed toward war, and the message to the women concerning their reason to join. Ask these questions: How are the posters from the two wars similar? What differences are clearly observable? What differences would you expect to see in a recruitment poster produced today?

World War I was the first war in which women were actively recruited for military service. The length of the war and the large number of casualties among U.S. allies stimulated their leaders to recruit women in even larger numbers than did the Americans. The Europeans also continued the practice of having women in the military forces. In the United States, there was great controversy among military and political leaders concerning the appropriateness of women in the military. Only nurses were allowed to continue in the services after the war ended. Prior to World War I, the law stated that admission to the Navy and therefore the Marine Corps was open to all citizens. After World War I, the law was changed so that admission to the Navy and Marine Corps was limited to male citizens only. When World War II began, women were again recruited for all branches of the military to be in an Auxiliary Corps instead of the regular military forces. Indeed, there was such a great demand for female nurses that a bill was passed in Congress to draft nurses for service.

In 20th century America, the role of women and the military has undergone great change. So also has the attitude of people toward war. Now women are seen as an integral part of the professional military and not as an add-on in time of crisis to free men for battle. As the United States assumed its position of leadership in the world, the need for a highly trained and professional military opened up the opportunity for the military to become a serious career commitment for both men and women.

1 Materials used in this lesson are postcard or poster reproductions from World War I and World War II, which are available from the National Archives Poster and Facsimiles catalog. National Archives Trust Fund, NEPS Dept. 820, P.O. Box 100793, Atlanta, GA 30384. Postcards are $.25 each and posters are $5.00 each. Minimum order: $2.00 plus $3.00 shipping and handling for orders up to $50.00.

Holm, Jeanne. Women in the Military: An Unfinished Revolution. Novato, Calif.: Presidio Press, 1992.Schneider, Dorothy, and Carl J. Schneider. Into the Breach. New York: Viking Penguin, 1991.Cynthia S. Sunal is professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Alabama. Mary E. Haas is associate professor of curriculum and instruction at West Virginia University.