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Growing Patriots: Victory Gardens, Children, and Civic Identity in World War II

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Abstract:

In 1943, the backyard plots, community gardens, and industrial easements cultivated as Victory Gardens produced 42% of the fresh produce United States citizens consumed in that year. This project will be the first to interpret Victory Gardens in light of wartime developments in agriculture, industry, and society. My study centers the factory metaphors of industrial production to illuminate how Victory Gardens were a part of the military-industrial productionist zeitgeist, rather than a sustainable, grassroots alternative per popular historical memory. While Victory Gardens are often dismissed merely as propaganda tools to raise morale, a significant function they served was indeed as fertile ground for growing patriotic American citizens. Building off the scholarship of Amy Bentley and Rose Smith-Hayden, this paper will emphasize an understudied body of sources: World War II children’s garden materials from schools, 4-H groups, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and YMCA branches. In these materials, I uncover how even children were expected to shoulder the obligations and responsibilities of citizenship in wartime America – including laboring for the war effort. The ideal of the worker-citizen, as articulated by Evelyn Nakono Glenn, was performed within and mediated by the natural environment in these children’s gardens. Victory Gardening tied children to American natural history; for example, in 1944 the 4-H club had a week-long celebration of Thomas Jefferson and his dreams of yeoman farmers, manifest in Victory Gardeners. However, children’s backyard horticulture also gestured toward the future of the United States, negotiating tensions that would guide the suburban explosion in the postwar world: man and nature, technology and culture, wilderness and city, and the machine and the garden.
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Name: ASEH Annual Conference
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http://aseh.net


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1170751_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Day, Anastasia. "Growing Patriots: Victory Gardens, Children, and Civic Identity in World War II" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Annual Conference, Drake Hotel, Chicago, IL, <Not Available>. 2018-01-10 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1170751_index.html>

APA Citation:

Day, A. "Growing Patriots: Victory Gardens, Children, and Civic Identity in World War II" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Annual Conference, Drake Hotel, Chicago, IL <Not Available>. 2018-01-10 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1170751_index.html

Publication Type: Panel Paper
Abstract: In 1943, the backyard plots, community gardens, and industrial easements cultivated as Victory Gardens produced 42% of the fresh produce United States citizens consumed in that year. This project will be the first to interpret Victory Gardens in light of wartime developments in agriculture, industry, and society. My study centers the factory metaphors of industrial production to illuminate how Victory Gardens were a part of the military-industrial productionist zeitgeist, rather than a sustainable, grassroots alternative per popular historical memory. While Victory Gardens are often dismissed merely as propaganda tools to raise morale, a significant function they served was indeed as fertile ground for growing patriotic American citizens. Building off the scholarship of Amy Bentley and Rose Smith-Hayden, this paper will emphasize an understudied body of sources: World War II children’s garden materials from schools, 4-H groups, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and YMCA branches. In these materials, I uncover how even children were expected to shoulder the obligations and responsibilities of citizenship in wartime America – including laboring for the war effort. The ideal of the worker-citizen, as articulated by Evelyn Nakono Glenn, was performed within and mediated by the natural environment in these children’s gardens. Victory Gardening tied children to American natural history; for example, in 1944 the 4-H club had a week-long celebration of Thomas Jefferson and his dreams of yeoman farmers, manifest in Victory Gardeners. However, children’s backyard horticulture also gestured toward the future of the United States, negotiating tensions that would guide the suburban explosion in the postwar world: man and nature, technology and culture, wilderness and city, and the machine and the garden.


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