“Women of Connecticut: Are You Helping?” The Reaction to Emergency Food Measures During World War I

Christine Gauvreau, Project Coordinator, Connecticut Digital Newspaper Project,
Connecticut State Library


Historical Background

By the time the United States entered WWI, farming in Europe had been devastated. U.S. allies were starving. Washington initiated a patriotic program to increase food production and to induce the people to voluntarily conserve food on the household level. Five billion dollars in food was delivered to Europe. As part of the effort to provide this food to the Allies, the federal government set out to get 22 million households to sign a food conservation pledge. Robert Scoville, head of the Connecticut Food Administration, and George M. Landers, chairman of the Connecticut Committee of Food Supply, organized the drive in this state. In November 1917, their goal for Connecticut was 200,000 signed pledge cards.

D1: Potential Compelling Question

Do government campaigns to promote “voluntary” patriotic efforts in a time of war strengthen or weaken American democracy?


  • What did the U.S. Food Administration and the Connecticut Committee on Food Supply hope to accomplish with the food pledge campaign?
  • What methods were employed to achieve these goals, who employed these methods, and to whom did they appeal?
  • How did gender, income level, religion, and place of national origin affect how residents experienced or evaluated the food pledge campaign?
  • What opposition, if any, was there to home front mobilization campaigns?


Things you will need to teach this lesson:

Part 1

Part 2


  1. Introduce the compelling question and the initial supporting questions that will drive the inquiry.
  2. Together as a class, examine Source #1 (“Food will Win the War” poster.) Track students’ observations and questions about the source. What clues does the poster provide about the goals and methods of the U.S. Food Administration?
  3. Next, break the class into smaller work groups/pairs.
  4. Assign 1-3 primary sources from Part 2 of the toolkit to each group/pair. Allow the small groups time to develop responses to the initial supporting questions based on the primary sources and generate additional supporting questions.
  5. Ask each work group to briefly share their source(s), findings, and questions with the rest of the group.
  6. Discuss responses to the compelling question based on the evidence from the primary sources provided.
  7. Have the class (as a whole) propose avenues for further research that interest them, explaining why they think such research might be important.



Place to GO

Interested to know more about what went on in your town during World War I? Visit your local library and ask if they have newspapers from the time on microfilm or in bound volumes.

Visit your local historical society to discover what original materials they have from WWI. You may find posters, photographs, letters, or personal accounts.

Things To DO

Search Connecticut newspapers in Chronicling America to learn more about food riots taking place in both the United States and Europe during World War I. Using the Advanced Search, limit your search to 1914-1918 and the phrase “food riots.” How do these riots and the responses to them compare to contemporary events globally? Is food still a subject of social unrest? What other issues cause demonstrations or uprisings?

Search Chronicling America to explore how retail commerce was affected by the home front mobilizations in Connecticut. For example, on this newspaper page is an advertisement for a stove guaranteed to minimize “food shrinkage.” Do you think that they sold many units? How did other retailers appeal to the home front? Compile a portfolio of ads that used patriotism to sell their wares. Is this approach used today?

Websites to VISIT

Connecticut in the Great War

Connecticut Digital Archive: Remembering World War One

International Encyclopedia of the Great War: Home Front

National World War One Museum

Articles to READ


CTExplored.org: “Greenwich Women Face the Great War.” by Kathleen Eagen Johnson. Connecticut Explored, Winter 2014/2015.

Allen, John. “The Food Administration of Herbert Hoover and American Voluntarism in the First World War.” Germina Veris, 1/1 (2014).

Barr, Eleanor. “Part 1: Women’s Peace Party.” Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Collection (DG043). Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA.

Edelstein, Sally. “Women and Food Will Win the War—WWI.” March 14, 2016, Envisioning the American Dream.

Four Lights: An Adventure in Internationalism. Women’s Peace Party of New York City, January 27, 1917-June 12, 1919. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Collection (DG043), Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA.

Grayzel, Susan R. “Women’s Mobilization for War.” International Encyclopedia of the First World War, ed. by Ute Daniel, Peter Gatrell, Oliver Janz, Heather Jones, Jennifer Keene, Alan Kramer, and Bill Nasson, issued by Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin 2014.

Kazin, Michael. “The War—Or American Promise: One Must Choose.” War Against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914-1918. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017.

Kennedy, David M. “The War for the American Mind” and “The Political Economy of War: The Home Front” Over Here: The First World War and American Society. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980, pp. 45-143.