Rose Hayden-Smith •

Rose Hayden-Smith

About Rose Hayden-Smith

I'm an author/academic who believes that gardens can transform the world. Call me a Victory Grower. Location: intersection of gardens, agriculture, food systems, sustainability, history, faith, public policy and the use of social technologies. The past has the power to inform the present.

Stars and Stripes: WWI Gardens

The Stars and Stripes, America’s storied armed forces newspaper, made its debut in World War I. It began publication in February 1918, by order of General Pershing, leader of the American Expeditionary Force. It was published by the U.S. Army for its troops in France, printed in France, on borrowed presses, and distributed by trains, automobiles and motorcycles to American troops, also called “doughboys”. The WWI edition of The Stars and Stripes was published through June 13, 1919. As part of the research for my book, I scanned most of the seventy-one-week run of the WWI edition. It wasn’t easy: blurry Xerox copies and microfiche.

Now, though, as we enter the rolling centenary commemorations of this momentous war, this amazing resource is available online, through the Library of Congress. I encourage you to visit the site and learn more about the American experience during “The Great War.”

During WWI, American forces were distributed throughout the Western Front. American units were often combined with the forces of our European allies (including units of soldiers from Britain, France, and Italy). One goal of The Stars and Stripes was to provide a new, quickly mobilized and scattered army with a sense of common purpose and unity. Another goal was to provide information about what was occurring on the home front. A weekly publication, the newspaper’s eight-pages were packed with news from the home front. Nationally known journalists pitched in to help write pieces.  Per the Library of Congress, “At the peak of its production, The Stars and Stripes had a circulation of 526,000 readers.”

526,000 readers. And during the same year, America reportedly had 5,285,000 Liberty/Victory gardens.

The battlefront is the flip side of the home front, and I was not surprised to find […]

World War I: Ann Street School Garden

During World War I, students at the small Ann Street School in my community of Ventura, California, raised two tons of potatoes in their school garden. Their work, replicated in thousands of schools across the United States, had its roots in a broader national imperative that mobilized citizens of all ages to help boost wartime agricultural production and encourage consumption of local foods. While these national programs encouraging home, school, and community gardens reflected cultural, social, and political conditions specific to the World War I era, they established a public practice that has been revisited during war and other trying times. Today, they contribute to national sustainable food systems initiatives.

Ann Street Elementary was razed decades ago. The neighborhood school was rebuilt and is now called “Lincoln Elementary School.” The school has a garden, still, bordering on Ventura’s Main Street, visible to passersby as one enters the heart of the downtown community.

For more about the vital topic of school gardens – past and present – read my book, “Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs of World War I.”

“A Garden for Everyone. Everyone in a Garden.”

Learn more: A WWI bibliography

With the centennial of World War I upon us, it’s a great time to learn more. In the process of writing a dissertation and a book, I’ve developed numerous thematic bibliographies that use WWI as a nexus to explore a wide range of topics. I have bibliographies consisting of both primary and secondary sources. The topics include agriculture/horticulture, urban development, professionalization in the sciences, food policy, woman’s work/suffrage, childhood, cultural life, the home front, memory, and visual culture.

My newly released book, “Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs of World War I” touches on each of the above topics. It takes things a step further, by considering how the historical models of World War I could improve today’s broken food system.

I first studied literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Literature is one of the best ways to study history, and I always use literature of the time to frame my historical topics.  As a high school student, I fell in love with the work of World War I poets such as A.E. Housman and Wilfred Owen. It’s grim stuff, but lovely and thought-provoking.

With so much interest about World War I, a number of people have asked me to suggest some background reading on “The Great War.” I have resources for all ages (K-adult), but am focusing on adult readers for this blog. Not all of this is new, not all of it is “academic”, and I’ve not included journal articles that might require a paid subscription. Most of these books are available in public libraries (exception: Danbom’s) or through most booksellers, at least online.

Some suggested reading, AFTER you’ve read my book:

If you want to learn about American agriculture during this period, see […]

Amaryllis and Family Friendship: Reflections

This is a story of an amaryllis, some gardeners, and a family friendship that has spanned three generations. It is a story that affirms much of what I believe to be true about gardeners: they are hopeful, they are generous, and they connect across generations.

More than fifty years ago, a young couple named Dick and Ann Smith bought their first home in a quiet, leafy neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley. Dick was a former Stanford football player and a Korean War veteran. A journalist by trade, he found work at NBC Studios as a cameraman. Ann, a lab tech and East Coast transplant, stayed at home with Bill, their young son, who was soon joined by a string of siblings.

The neighbors across the street from the Smiths were an older couple, Bob and Lucille Ludlum; they welcomed the Smiths warmly. Bob and Lucille had a daughter, Joanne, a UCLA grad, who was married to a man named Ed Rossi. Ed and Joanne were the same age as Dick and Ann, and a fast and enduring friendship formed. The Rossi family lived in Reseda, but they and their three young sons were frequent visitors to the Ludlum’s home, conveniently located across from the Smith house, which eventually also had three boys, all near in age to the Rossi boys. The quiet, dead-end street erupted into a joyful jumble of children during those years. That is how my husband, Bill, met his lifelong best friend, Steve, and where the story of the amaryllis begins.

Lucille Ludlum was a gifted and dedicated gardener. One day, Lucille gave Ann Smith, my mother-in-law, an amaryllis cutting. It took off, and has flourished for years and years in Ann’s yard. […]

By |August 2nd, 2014|Categories: Other|Tags: |0 Comments

The War to End All Wars: Part 2

In a previous blog posting, I talked a little about “The War to End All Wars” – specifically, the centennial day of the beginning of World War I – “The Great War” – which I mark as a somber occasion.

Today, I’m sharing a little more about why the American government placed such a priority on creating a national Liberty/Victory Garden program during World War I. The fears about food security/access were real.

The pace of global change during World War I was stunning. Within a single six-week period, the centuries-old Romanov Empire in Russia collapsed and America entered the war and began mobilizing millions of men to fight on foreign soil. This mass mobilization of Americans for foreign combat was unprecedented. A bias rooted in America’s colonial experience with an occupying British Army had kept America from maintaining a strong, centralized military, and the nation scrambled to respond to its new wartime footing.

In World War I, the industrial and economic might of nations turned toward the prosecution of total war. Technological “advancements” com- pounded the horror and misery. World War I brought the widespread use of machine guns (capable of firing up to six-hundred rounds per minute, with deadly results), the introduction of chemical warfare (chlorine and mustard gas), aerial warfare, flamethrowers, and the tank (which, in fact, proved of limited use in World War I). Unterseebooten (U-boats) prowled the seas. Barbed wire, more commonly used in agricultural settings, was used with deadly effect on the battlefield. The war created an international arms race, with the goal to inflict as many casualties as possible.

An important part of the new wartime footing for America was to address concerns about the nation’s food system. With the ability […]

The War to End All Wars: Part 1

Today, July 28th, 2014, is a sad centennial; it marks the day that World War I –  “The War to End All Wars” – began.

Many of know me primarily for my work in sustainable food systems, and as a garden-based educator who is passionate about Liberty and Victory Gardens (past and present). In fact, however, I am a U.S. historian whose work focuses on the American home front during World War I. I am a World War I historian. I expect to be very busy during the next five years, educating people about the worldwide conflict that is essential to understanding so many of the things that have happened in the world since.

I’ve always studied wars.  My first passion as a young historian – beginning at about age 9 – was the American Civil War. I was the only elementary-aged student in my school who had a subscription to “Civil War Times” magazine, whose family took her to visit Civil War battlefields in the South, who read Bruce Catton. In junior high and high school, I shifted my area of study to World War II, and later on to Vietnam (shaped strongly by my childhood experiences watching the war on TV and living on a military base during part of that conflict), and later still, to study around the Revolutionary War.  My greatest interest has been the impact of wars on the home front (cultural and social issues, and comparative analysis of home front experiences).

The topic of Victory Gardens during World War I really piqued my interest, because they represented hope and creation during a time of unprecedented destruction.

Some people object to the term “Victory Gardens” for contemporary use because of its historical association […]

The Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women

Nearly a decade prior to America’s entry into World War I, the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women opened its doors. Its beginning was inauspicious. However, it led to one of the most interesting chapters of World War I: women’s quest for suffrage and opportunities to serve during the war via the creation of a Woman’s Land Army of America.

Women were vital to the success of wartime food programs – including the Liberty/Victory Garden effort – because they controlled and managed home food purchases and most food preparation (i.e., the household economy). During World War I, women’s magazines were replete with articles about gardening and food preservation. Women had also long been involved in reform efforts that influenced later wartime gardening work, including civic beautification, school gardens, working with immigrant populations, and tackling issues related to poverty (for example, Hull House).

Women used their work in gardening and horticulture to press for suffrage and fuller participation in the nation’s cultural and political life during World War I.  One expression of this was the Woman’s Land Army of America (WLAA) – which “enlisted” nearly 20,000 women (many of them urban and suburban college coeds) – to help on the farm front. The “farmerettes” as they were called, provided vital farm labor “over here” as men were mobilized to fighting “over there”.

The Woman’s Land Army would never have come into existence without a previous effort: an obscure horticultural school for women in Philadelphia that served as a catalyst for the creation of the Woman’s Land Army. Humble in its beginning, the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women proved to be of national importance in subsequent years.

The founders of the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women held this […]

Where Gardens Lead Us

Gardens lead us places. As a garden-based educator, I have seen people move from gardens into greater engagement with their food system. I jokingly refer to gardening as “the gateway drug to the food system”, but there is much truth to this statement. Gardens lead to heightened awareness in the food system. In World War 1 and World War 2, there was a call for more gardens. For better gardens. Buried in the quickly organized National Defense Gardening Conference proceedings – drafted at a national meeting convened a mere twelve days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor – were public policy recommendations that would make sense today. They included providing funding and credit to help purchase gardening supplies and equipment, and adopting policies that would provide “adequate productive land for gardens for tenants.”

This is a Sputnik moment for America in terms of food, our future, and our relationship with the global community. The future is about feeding 8 billion people in a decade, with fewer resources, less political stability, and an unpredictable climate. Gardens lead us places, and they can lead us, in part, to solutions that will help feed ourselves, our communities, our nation, and the world.

Please consider picking up a copy of my book, “Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs of World War I”. It’s an interesting interplay between past and present, and I think you’ll enjoy reading it.

In the meantime, as we all hear too much bad news on every front, I urge you to let a garden – maybe your garden, maybe a garden in a public place – lead you, lead us all, to a place of peace.

“A Garden for Everyone. Everyone in a Garden.”



Gardening: Always A Good Time

Gardening: it’s always a good time.

This is a good time in the garden at #stpaulsventura. In the flush days of summer, when the garden’s bounty is bursting forth from the raised beds we’ve constructed, it’s a joy to be in the garden. I can’t wait for my daily visit. Others can’t wait to visit either; I often run into other people there. Many days I visit twice. Or three times. I take pictures and post them on social media, I gush about it in conversation, I flush when anyone mentions “the garden.” I. Am. In. Love. Completely, utterly, hopelessly in love.

I am in a good time.

Last week when I attempted to weed around the corn (reference Tara: “the corn’s as high as an elephant’s eye”), I was repeatedly buzzed by yellow jackets. I didn’t get stung – I strategically retreated – but it was probably not the best time. (Although I had a great time sitting in the chair on the other side of the garden, inhaling the scent of lavender. And when I returned the following morning, there were no yellow jackets, and I weeded some and wove bean tendrils around the corn stalks to create a green trellis of wonder).

I haven’t had a bad time yet. I must admit on that hot day when Agromin dropped several yards of mulch, my spirit nearly failed me. A huge pile, a wheelbarrow, a little shovel, and me. But God always provides, help appeared when I least expected it, and my muscles and will were strong. And as I watched the space transform, it was a good time.

When recalling my career in gardens, I’m not sure I’ve ever had a bad time. Certain efforts haven’t […]

By |July 22nd, 2014|Categories: Other|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Photo: NYC WWI Liberty Garden

This hand-colored photograph shows a WWI Liberty Garden in New York City’s Bryant Park (42nd Street and Fifth Avenue).  The Liberty Garden effort – these gardens soon came to be called “Victory Gardens” –  was led by the National War Garden Commission (NWGC) in partnership with the federal government and other organizations.

Demonstration gardens such as the one in Bryant Park were vital to spreading the gardening gospel. These gardens served as a point of inspiration, a place for teaching and community-building, and ultimately, as a tool to help mobilize the nation to home front food production. You can learn more about Liberty Gardens and the work of the NWGC in my book, “Sowing the Seeds of Victory.”

The garden depicted is in this image shows an oasis surrounded by high-rise buildings. Who says urban agriculture is new? It also features an advertisement for Chesterfield cigarettes.  The Victory Grower recommends taking up the gardening habit, but doesn’t encourage smoking cigarettes!

Photographer: Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952); image available from the Library of Congress.

“A Garden for Everyone. Everyone in a Garden.”