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Housewives in Uniform: Domesticity as Military Duty

With U.S. entry into World War I, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Herbert Hoover to head the newly created U.S. Food Administration. A mining engineer who had successfully organized the massive effort to get food to Belgium’s citizens after the German army’s sweep through that country in 1914, Hoover was now charged with managing domestic agriculture and conservation in order to feed the U.S. Army and assist Allied armies and civilians. “Food Will Win the War,” declared the Food Administration through its ubiquitous posters and publicity efforts. Planting gardens, observing voluntary rationing, avoiding waste—these efforts at food conservation all came to be known as “Hooverizing.” Women’s magazines also took up the home conservation crusade, some employing military analogies to promote the recommendations of the Food Administration. Presenting domestic work as patriotic effort, this U.S. Food Administration campaign in Good Housekeeping offered women a membership shield and even provided instructions for sewing a “patriotic” housekeeping uniform.

Will you become a member of the Food Administration? Every woman in the country is needed. At the head of the organization is the Food Administration of the United States. And direct from him will come instructions to the army of American women who are relied upon to carry out in their homes the ideals of economy and thrift to which this country is pledging itself. In order to have food enough for our soldier boys, enough for our allies, and enough ourselves, economy is necessary. Not every woman can leave her home to do relief work, but every woman can, put into practice at home the instructions which the Food Administrator will send to all who sign the pledge at the end of this article. Will you cooperate in this form of practical patriotism? . . .

A copy of the shield insignia of the Food Administration is sent to every woman who enlists as a member. It is hoped that before long there will not be a home in the country which does not show in one of its windows this badge of loyalty. . . .

The Food Administration uniform of service . . . is such a practical, trim, and attractive house dress that it is sure to be popular. Made in blue, with white collar and cuffs, the insignia upon the sleeve and upon the front of the cap in red, it is especially charming and carries out the national colors. One of the best points about the costume is that it is very easy to launder. The high cuffs are detachable, buttoning onto sleeves which are a little short so that there is no bungling of two thicknesses about the wrists. The dress itself is in one piece and opens out flat so that it can be ironed about as easily as a small sheet. The housewife slips into it as she would slip into a coat. A strap belt buttons in the back, giving a pleasing fullness about the hips. The little white cap is made of two pieces, which may be ironed flat. The low collar is well cut, with especially becoming lines. And there are pockets-two of them, and so capacious that they are guaranteed to win the heart of any woman. Made of blue chambray, percale, or any other durable easy-to-launder material, this house dress is decidedly attractive besides being eminently practical.

Good Housekeeping believes that its large circle of earnest, patriotic women readers will respond gladly to a call to service at home. It is a tremendous task—this one of conservation and elimination of waste. Every woman is urged to do her part. It can best be done through close cooperation with the government. Enlist now and pledge yourself to do your share. The following blank may be cut out, the spaces filled in, and sent to the Food Administrator at Washington. You will then receive official instructions to carry out at home.

To the Food Administrator.

Washington, D.C.

I am glad to join you in the services of food conservation for our nation and I hereby accept membership in the United States Food Administration, pledging myself to carry out the directions and advice of the Food Administrator in the conduct of my household, insofar as my circumstances permit.



Number in Household

Do you employ a cook?

Occupation of Breadwinner

Will you take part in authorized neighborhood movements for food conservation?

There are no fees or dues to be paid. The Food Administration wishes to have as members all of those actually handling food in the home.


Mail your pledge card to the Food Administrator, Washington, D.C., and you will receive free your first instructions and a household tag to be hung in your window.

Upon receipt of ten cents with your pledge card and a self-addressed envelope, the official button of the Administration, and if desired, the shield insignia of the Food Administration will also be sent to you.

Source: Mildred Maddocks, “Good Housekeeping Institute,” Good Housekeeping (September 1917), 74, 95.

See Also:Patriotic Housekeeping: Good Housekeeping Recruits Kitchen Soldiers
Victory on the Menu: Recipes and Rationing