Gardening and American Nationalism during World War II: The Home Front Fight For Food
Melinda R. Hortin
University of Utah — Member ΦΑθ-AP
Published in Utah Historical Review, Vol IV.
This essay focuses on the Victory Garden movement in the US during World War II. Victory Gardens were not a new idea for the American public. The gardening movement as subsistence for the home front had actually been implemented during World War I as “War Gardens” by the government. Victory Gardens emerged throughout the US after the attack on Pearl Harbor, but the Department of Agriculture did not immediately implement the order for all citizens to have Victory Gardens until 1943. The government feared food shortages due to labor shortage and Americans caught onto the gardening bug when canned goods started to be rationed. Victory Gardening hit an all-time high in 1943, and with the end of the war the gardening effort sloughed off, despite the government warning of continued food rationing and possible shortages. Victory Gardens brought about a new sense of participation in the war effort, and also gave people a place to work out their nervousness from the stress of the war. The imagery of ads, government pamphlets and newspaper articles of the time reveal that all members of families were involved in Victory Gardening. These ads show happy people working and planting seeds to create their own food in order to have enough to eat for any lean months ahead. This essay will explore the roles of the family members in the Victory Garden movement and the larger picture of government action in providing food for the American public during war time. The success of the Victory Garden movement showed that Americans of the time were interested in helping with the war effort, specifically doing more proactive work to become self-sufficient. These home front actions therefore helped to take pressure off the government of providing food for the American people and the focus of the government can then be on providing for the needs of the armies. The primary sources for this essay will be primarily images, newspaper articles, and governmental ads from the time period showing the people working in their gardens and talking about the effort at home. By also using governmental pamphlets from the era, which talk specifically about how to set up a garden and how to maintain it, these sources show how the government helped administer the victory garden program.
This paper was presented at the spring 2014 regional Phi Alpha Theta conference at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.