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Using Primary Sources in the Classroom:
World War I Unit

Lesson 4: The Home Front - "Food Will Win The War"

Background Information for Teachers

When America went to war in 1917, the United States government attempted to mobilize all aspects of society in support of the effort. Patriotic propaganda on the home front combined with economic controls over essential resources to bring government into the lives of citizens to an unprecedented extent. Conservation, along with increased production of foodstuffs, was urged upon Americans, including Alabamians, as the surest means of defeating the enemies of democracy. Food prices were set and home "Victory Gardens" were encouraged by the government intent on supplying Allied troops even as manpower was siphoned off the farms to fill the ranks of the military and industry. Women and children of both races were exhorted to enlist to do battle for the cause on the home front.

 


Learning Objectives
Upon completion of this lesson, students should be able to:
  1. Define and identify propaganda.
  2. Analyze the multiple sides of an issue (problem resolution skills).
  3. Discuss the racial environment of Alabama during World War I.
  4. Create a poster reflecting the concerns of the time period.

Suggested Activities
  1. Make copies of the documents for the students.
  2. Use the suggested guidelines for analyzing a written document and a photograph at the beginning of this unit of information.
  3. Define the term propaganda. Ask the students to identify forms of propaganda in the posters and newspaper advertisements.
  4. Select several students to describe and discuss individual documents.
  5. Have all students answer the following questions after having discussed each of the documents.
    1. Why do you believe there were such differences of opinion concerning the Food Administration Bill?
    2. Why is the Official Garden Calendar compiled by Home and School Garden Association of Birmingham of importance? Why would the white and black participants be separated?
    3. Why was it important for everyone to conserve food and to plant home gardens?
    4. How was this idea of home production of food beneficial to the entire war effort? Could this be considered "propaganda?"
    5. What kinds of skills could be learned by young Americans by keeping the records of a home garden?
For younger students:
  1. Create a poster to encourage people to:
    1. Plant a "victory" garden
    2. Can or preserve food to support the war effort
  2. Draw a plan of your "victory" garden. What kinds of vegetables would you choose to plant? How large would your garden be? How many rows of each type of vegetable would you plant?

Documents
  • Document 1: Bell, S. J., J. A. Jones, R. C. Smith, C. V. Ingram, Jr., W. E. Davis, John Banks, J. C. Thompson, H. A. Bedell, C. C. Torbert, J. T. Hamilton, W. R. Williams, and C. R. Hodge, Opelika, Alabama, to Hon. John H. Bankhead, Washington, D.C., 3 July 1917. John H. Bankhead Papers, LPR 49, Container 30, Folder 3, Alabama. Department of Archives & History, Montgomery, Alabama.

     

  • Document 2: Lee, Robert, Birmingham, Alabama, to Hon. John H. Bankhead, Washington, D.C., 1 July 1917. John H. Bankhead Papers, LPR 49, Container 30, Folder 3, Alabama. Department of Archives & History, Montgomery, Alabama.

     

  • Document 3: Birmingham Printing Pressmen's Union, Birmingham, Alabama, to Hon. John H. Bankhead, Washington, D.C., 16 July 1917. John H. Bankhead Papers, LPR 49, Container 30, Folder 3, Alabama. Department of Archives & History, Montgomery, Alabama.

     

  • Document 4: "To All Thinking People." The Montgomery Advertiser, 5 April 1917, 1. Micro #284, Alabama Department of Archives & History, Montgomery, Alabama.

     

  • Document 5: Sugar Means Ships. n.d. World War I Poster Collection, Alabama Department of Archives & History, Montgomery, Alabama.

     

  • Document 6: Our Flags. n.d. World War I Poster Collection, Alabama Department of Archives & History, Montgomery, Alabama.

     

  • Document 7: City of Birmingham. Home and School Garden Association. Official Garden Calendar. [Birmingham]: City of Birmingham, Home and School Garden Association, [1916]. John H. Bankhead Papers, LPR 49, Container 30, Folder 1, Alabama Department of Archives & History, Montgomery, Alabama.

     

  • Document 8: "Americans Asked to Limit Use of Sugar." Washington County News, 29 August 1918, 3. Micro #455, Alabama Department of Archives & History, Montgomery, Alabama.

     

  • Document 9: Department of the Interior. Bureau of Education. Daily Record Book of Boys' and Girls' Home Gardens. [Washington, D.C.]: Department of the Interior, Bureau of Education, [1917]. Alabama Council of Defense (1917-1919), Program Administrative Files, SG 18904, Folder 26, Alabama Department of Archives & History, Montgomery, Alabama.