Scholars have long held that World War I markedly impacted women’s participation in the public sphere as questions of appropriate wartime participation for women arose. Posters were an important tool for communicating notions of feminine citizenship and patriotism during the US involvement in the war. In this article, I explore the influence of the US involvement in World War I on social constructions of white femininity and citizenship through their portrayal in American Red Cross posters produced between 1914 and 1919. These posters offer a distinct visual documentation of the cultural shift in the portrayal of, and the insistence on, white women’s – particularly nurses’ – responsibilities during wartime. I argue that the sentiments and language of the newly splintered women’s movements were co-opted into the service of the war and were further emboldened with religious sentiments. American Red Cross posters called upon women to enact their presumed innate nurturing tendencies, and by extension, their feminine citizenship, at both the home and warfronts. In this way, the labor of the private sphere was drawn into the service of the war but without fully admitting women into the public sphere.
Keywords: gender, World War I, nurses, American Red Cross posters, patriotism, citizenship