Our Greatest Mother – Join!

Our Greatest Mother - Join! (1917)

The lithographic poster became a popular propaganda tool during World War I. In the era before broadcast radio and television, posters were one of the simplest and most powerful ways to inform or persuade the public. The American Red Cross used the medium to enlist nurses, solicit funds and promote its public image. One popular strategy for winning support and female recruits was to portray the humanitarian organization as a metaphorical mother and guardian angel for wounded soldiers and civilian victims.

You kept fit and defeated the Hun - now set a high standard, a clean America! Stamp out venereal diseases.

You kept fit... (circa 1918-1920)

Poster art became a popular propaganda tool for wartime public health campaigns. Diseases like syphilis were a major problem among the troops. They warranted wide-scale campaigns in prevention both during and immediately after the war. Poster art about venereal disease communicated the concept of “keeping fit” through images of forthright soldiers defeating the German enemy. These images were not simply coded references to good sex hygiene practices. They reflected contemporaries’ belief that venereal disease threatened military efficiency and symbolized moral failure and social decay. Following the war, when this poster was produced, social progressives transformed a campaign to preserve the efficiency of fighting soldiers into a comprehensive civilian program to rid the nation of vice, immorality and disease.


Visit the Representations section of this exhibit to view more visual representations of the war experienced by the Hopkins community.