Rose Hayden-Smith • thevictorygrower.com

World War I

Origins of Veterans Day: A short primer

 

Origins of Veteran’s Day

Veteran’s Day began in the World War 1 era as “Armistice Day”. It is still referred to by that term elsewhere in the world, and is also called “Remembrance Day” in some places. At the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month in 1918 – Germany and the Allied nations agreed to a cessation of hostilities. It wasn’t the formal end of the war – those details would take months to work out, and tragically, thousands were lost in the final minutes ticking down to Armistice – but it marked the end of fighting. In much of the world – even today – many of us pause to remember in silence the millions upon millions killed, wounded and forever affected by World War I, “the war to end all wars.”

“Lest we forget…” The first Armistice Day observance was certainly the reflection of the desire of people to, as one government official said, “find some lasting expression of their feeling for those who gave their lives in the war. They want something done now while the memories of sacrifice are in the minds of all…”

Armistice was celebrated with one, two, or even three minutes of absolute silence. Factories quieted, and all came to a stand still. One participant later described it like this: “Silence, complete and arresting, closed upon the city – the moving, awe-inspiring silence of a great Cathedral where the smallest sound must seem a sacrilege…Only those who have felt it can understand the overmastering effect in action and reaction of a multitude moved suddenly to one thought and one purpose.”

The silent commemoration was so important that in the inter-war years, the word “Silence” was capitalized.

The first […]

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 […]

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.”

 

 

The History of School Gardens: Part 2

School gardens were used in parts of Europe as early as 1811, and mention of their value precedes that by nearly two centuries. Philosophers and educational reformers such as John Amos Comenius and Jean-Jacques Rousseau discussed the importance of nature in the education of children; Comenius mentioned gardens specifically. The use and purpose of school gardens was multifold; gardens provided a place where youth could learn natural sciences (including agriculture) and also acquire vocational skills. Indeed, the very multiplicity of uses and purposes for gardens made it difficult for gardening proponents to firmly anchor gardening in the educational framework and a school’s curriculum; it still does.

School gardens have been around for a long time, and their history matters today. The founder of the kindergarten movement, Friedrich Froebel, used gardens as an educational tool. Froebel was influenced by Swiss educational reformer Johann Pestalozzi, who saw a need for balance in education, a balance that incorporated “hands, heart, and head,” words and ideas that would be incorporated nearly two centuries later into the mission of the United States Department of Agriculture’s 4-H youth development program.  Gardens required all three of these things; for this and other reasons, Froebel advocated for school gardens during the course of his life.

Late 19th century educators such as Maria Montessori and John Dewey built upon educational theories espoused by these earlier philosophers and reformers and extended them. Both Montessori and Dewey spoke specifically about gardening and agricultural education for youth.  They both saw the acquisition of practical (i.e., vocational) skills as only part of the value of gardening experiences.

In both World War I and II, the United States also sought to encourage youth to express their love of country and commitment […]

The Victory Garden: A Brief History from the Victory Grower

I collect gardening catalogs.  To me, they represent life and productivity and the promise of family, good food and good health. BUT…

I also study and write about Victory Gardens. Because Victory Gardens, like gardening catalogs, also provide a link to a simpler, agrarian past that I find comforting and restorative in these unsettling times.  In a world where food prices are skyrocketing, violence seems unchecked, compassion towards the less fortunate seems to have evaporated and economic misery abounds, I find gardens of all sorts a refuge of optimism.  We need fewer bad things in this world and more good gardens. In hard times, Americans have always turned to gardening.  The Victory Gardens of World War I and World War II – and the garden efforts of the Great Depression – helped Americans weather hard times. These school, home and community gardens helped the family budget; improved dietary practices; reduced the food mile and saved fuel. They also enabled America to export more food to our allies; beautified communities; empowered every citizen to contribute to a national effort; and bridged social, ethnic, class and cultural differences during times when cooperation was vital. Gardens were an expression of solidarity, patriotism, and shared sacrifice.  They were everywhere…schools, homes, workplaces, and throughout public spaces all over the nation. No effort was too small. Americans did their bit. And it mattered.  We were a nation of Victory Growers, and it had far-ranging implications in many aspects of American social, cultural and political life. (And all of these things could be true again today. In many places, Victory Growers are at work, making these things come true). Consider this: In WWI, the Federal Bureau of Education rolled out a […]