President of the United States


On May 9, 1917 the US Government formed the United State’s Food Administration in efforts to create a body of workers and volunteers that would help mobilize the conservation effort through out the country. At its head was Herbert Hoover who was given the task of making sure the public consumed less food in order to supply the allies and the troops oversees. As part of their efforts, the women of the country were called upon to complete this undertaking. Under the leadership of women who headed the conservation division in Washington D.C., committees were established all across the country. These committees worked closely with the state to delegate the demands of the Food Administration.


One of the methods employed by the United States Food Administration was sending door to door volunteers to homes, restaurants and hotels across the United States. The task of the volunteers was to get women to sign pledge cards that read:


“I, THE member of the household entrusted with the handling of food,


do hereby enlist as a Kitchen Soldier for home service and pledge


myself to waste no food…”[1].


One of the important things about the language used by this and other government administrations during World War I is that they stated or implied that women were soldiers that were capable of playing winning roles in the war effort. In the pledge card mentioned, the woman becomes a home front soldier who plays her part to win the war, not by bearing arms or wearing a traditional army uniform, but by using less sugar, wheat and meat in her cooking. The images and language reminded women that they too could take part in a U.S. victory


After signing the pledge card, the “kitchen soldier” could then mail it to a specified address and would later receive a colorful certificate stating that she played a role in the war effort, a card to hang in her kitchen to remind her of her commitment; a second larger card to hang on a door or window so that her community could know that she too was a part of the conservation army. In the end, this campaign had over 14 million families, 7 thousand hotels and restaurants, and over 425 thousand food dealers who signed pledges to save food. [2]


These certificates were important in the unification of the women in the country. Although it was mostly middle class white women that bought into the movement, the simple act of placing these cards on the windows allowed the community to know whether someone was a part of the war effort. The certificate made home practices public knowledge and made it difficult for households to not send in their pledge card. Business


The effectiveness of this method can be questioned since the practices of the Kitchen Soldiers can not be accurately verified. Although someone could pledge, hang her cards in her refrigerator and on the front door, that didn’t always guarantee that she was doing as she promised. An example of this type of disobedience can be seen in many of the personal accounts that were written during the WWI period. A diary written by Emma Le Conte Furman recounts an event where another woman who received a large ration of sugar for her pledge of conserving food later gave her daughter a birthday party complete with “cake, ice cream & sweets galore”[3].


In Marsha Gordon’s article, Onward Kitchen Soldiers: Mobilizing the Domestic During World War I, the methods employed by the United States Food Administration to organize the war effort at home is explored. Although Gordon offers a wide arrange of evidence for her argument that women were portrayed as the soldiers at home who would help the allies to victory, she failed to discuss the effectiveness of the Food Administrations efforts. She talks extensively about the imagery and the methods used but does very little to talk about the public reaction, in this case, the women being bombarded with the propaganda.


Gordon does include two excerpts from personal journals to help support her argument, yet one can argue that the journal entries can not be considered reliable sources of analysis. Although they were written in the time period in