When the U.S. entered the Great War in 1917, three years after European hostilities began, the government undertook a huge public information campaign to gain public support for the war effort.
One aspect of that campaign was an emotional appeal to Americans to buy war bonds.
Treasury Secretary William McAdoo once told a group that not buying bonds was equivalent to supporting the Germans.
Some broadsides were aimed particularly at women.
The greatest mother in the world, World War 1 poster, ca. 1917
Item 15108 info
Maine Historical Society
Women's roles in the war were not limited to buying bonds. The importance of Red Cross nurses also was promoted in government posters.
Note that women were depicted not in military uniform or even at the front, but in their more traditional role as mother.
Jane Jeffrey (1881-1960), a British citizen and registered nurse who had been living in Massachusetts caring for a sick relative, volunteered in October 1917 as a Red Cross Nurse.
Jeffrey was sent to Bordeaux, France, where she served before being transferred to a military hospital in Jouy-sur-Marne.
She found difficult conditions. Tents housed the hospital wards. There was no plumbing. Wounded soliders arrived in large numbers, strainiing the ability of doctors and nurses to treat them.
During the second battle of the Marne, in July 1918, Germans fired on the military hospital.
Jeffrey was seriously wounded by shrapnel in her back and doctors determined that her injuries were too serious to warrant help from the over-taxed surgical staff.
She demanded -- and received -- treatment.
While recovering in Auteuil, France, Jane Jeffrey was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross -- an unusual honor for a woman.
Congress created the Distinguished Service Cross July 9, 1918, and awarded them to World War I military personnel for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an armed enemy of the United States.
Jeffrey received further treatment in an American convalescent home. While there, she was offered a job as a nurse at the Poland Spring House by E.P. Ricker, proprietor of the resort.
At Poland Spring, she met Ricker's brother, Alvan Bolster Ricker. The two were married.
Jane Jeffrey Ricker was active in the Poland Spring community and her bequests provided funds for a library building bearing her husband's name.
Note that the certificate was intended for men and the "him" and "his" have been crossed out to make it appropriate for a woman.
Some women also volunteered to help the Red Cross at home.
Here, in 1917, Margaret Chase, age 19, stands in front of the Skowhegan Red Cross office, where she worked as a volunteer collecting medical supplies for
The young volunteer, later known as Margaret Chase Smith, was a U.S. Representative, then U.S. Senator from Maine, where she worked on military matters.
The Red Cross was but one form of service for women in World War I.
Another was the Salvation Army. This poster honored Salvation Army "lassies," who provided support services to soldiers.
Americans who did not volunteer for the Red Cross or military duty still could help the war effort.
As this Navy poster suggests, the military needed binoculars and other equipment. People were asked to loan the equipment to the Navy -- but told they might not get it back.
Loaning items to the government for the war effort was probably the most unusual home-front activity undertaken during the Great War.
As a loan -- or possible purchase -- payment, the government sent participants in the program checks for $1.
Elizabeth Aageson, a music teacher in Portland, responded to the plea for telescopes, binoculars, chronometers and sextants.
In January 1918, she received a letter of acknowledgment from Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Aageson loaned this telescope to the Navy.
Attached to the telescope is a metal tag that reads "Donated to U.S.N. by Miss Elizabeth Aageson 436 St. John Street Portland Me. 1808."
Aageson's telescope was returned to her at the end of the war.
There was no documentation of how -- or whether -- the telescope was used.
The image of the blindfolded sailor at the top of the certificate Aageson received was used throughout the public information campaign on posters and other materials to encourage Americans to donate their optical and navigational equipment to the Navy.
Women workers also aided the war effort.
At the Portland Company, women helped to manufacture the 108-millimeter brass howitzer shells used in the war. These women are posing in front of the shipping and receiving doors at the Portland Company in 1917.
Women worked in a variety of other wartime industries in Maine and elsewhere.
The government's Committee on Public Information supplied pamphlets about the war effort, speakers called "Four-Minute Men" who discussed the war and what civilians could do, and a variety of other advertising and propaganda to garner public support.
Another thing households -- and particularly women -- could do was conserve food so that the larger stores of provisions could go overseas.
Be patriotic - sign your country's pledge to save the food, World War 1 poster, ca. 1918
Item 15109 info
Maine Historical Society
Patriotism often took the shape of a woman. This was another plea to women to conserve food for the war effort.
Women were asked to sign a pledge to save food.
One other way to support the war effort was to save books that could be sent overseas to soldiers.
This poster encouraging book donations uses a theme of military signals to spell out "s-e-n-d b-o-o-k-s."
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