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Professor Emily Bailey (Towson University): Food will win the War': Dietary Morality and Domestic Sacrifice in the Era of the Great War

In 1918 the nascent U.S. Food Administration collaborated with the non-denominational Christian Endeavor society to create the Wartime Cook Book: Food Will Win the War, from which all proceeds were to be used for war-time need. During the First World War, as in other periods of conflict throughout history, women’s domestic roles became more pronounced, shifting the balance of gendered labour in domestic economies. As wives, mothers, and patriots women were expected to aid the war effort in part through their traditional “female” work and expertise. Period sources, from government posters to charitable cookbooks, show that mainstream American women were able to enact their patriotism through faith and dietary choices. Through the lens of Protestant ladies’ societies, this essay examines the relationship between women, food selection and preparation, and a sense of Christian moral duty in the United States during the period of the Great War. It shows how, under the influence of messages about thrift, food conservation, and aid from pulpits across denominations, the outcome of the war and the reputation of the nation as one that was Christian, frugal, and charitable lay squarely on women’s shoulders. From Meatless Mondays and Wheatless Wednesdays to the Women’s Land Army, I consider the influences of the war on dietary choices and nutrition for adults and children, and religious approaches to mandatory government rationing. Throughout, the role of ladies’ aid societies and women’s church groups are revealed to have been vital, driving moral forces behind American women’s war labour.    

All welcome - This event is free, but booking is required.