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"Will You Help the Women of France?" c. 1918

Poster, "Will You Help the Women of France?"

Poster, "Will You Help the Women of France?"

New York State Library, NYSL_Poster_Penfield
Document Description
Broadside Encouraging Wheat Conservation, c. 1918.
How did conserving wheat help the women of France?
What are the women in the poster doing?
What do you notice about the ground in the poster?
Why was there a shortage of wheat in France during World War I?
Historical Challenges
Find an area of the world today that is experiencing a food shortage. Why are there food shortages in this area? What, if anything, is the rest of the world doing to help these areas?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Economics/Math: Compare wheat prices from 1913 and 1918. What factors affected the price of wheat during this time period? What affect did these prices have on the availability of wheat?
Art: Design a poster encouraging Americans to help a region of the world currently experiencing a famine.
Van Hise, Charles R. Conservation and Regulation in the United States during the World War. Part II Madison, WI, 1918.

Historical Context
Edward Penfield was a well-known artist and illustrator whose work appeared in many magazines including Harper's, Collier's, Scribner's, and The Saturday Evening Post.  During World War I, he illustrated many American recruitment and propaganda posters.

War often affects the ability of countries to produce food. World War I created famine conditions in much of Europe, as large tracts of land became battlefields. Wheat and quality meats were at the top of the shortage lists.

In 1917, the United States Food Administration began a campaign to encourage the voluntary reduction in the consumption of certain foods. Wheat was one of the items that appeared on the food shortage list. The government did not want to appear as a dictatorship by demanding compliance. Therefore, a campaign appealing to the patriotism and conscience of the citizens was launched. Government agencies, local businesses, and educational institutions were solicited to help spread information on how to help conservation efforts.

Advertisements, like the one pictured here, were used to encourage and educate the general population on using wheat substitutes. Many communities adopted strategies like “Wheatless Wednesdays” which meant they served meals containing no wheat. The pamphlets, posters, and educational brochures included recipes using acceptable substitutes and other ways of reducing the consumption of the items in short supply.

Essential Question
How does war affect the economic systems of a region?
Check for Understanding
Explain the need for posters like this during World War I.