Festival to honor the work women did during WWI
By Emily Thompson
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Feb. 27, 2017
- The government turned to women to help the state of Arkansas through food shortages during WWI.
- Through home demonstration program, the Cooperative Extension Service taught gardening canning and food substitutes.
- The Arkansas Women’s History Institute will hold a festival March 4 honoring the work women did during the war.
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- From helping ease worldwide food shortages to outfitting the troops, Arkansas women helped the U.S. through the First World War in any way they could. The Inaugural Arkansas Women's History Month Festival: Remembering 1917 will showcase women’s service to the country during wartime.
The event is put on by the Arkansas Women’s History Institute and has been sanctioned by the Arkansas World War I Centennial Commemoration Committee.
“The purpose of the festival is to showcase Arkansas's women, who were organized throughout 75 counties in order to successfully do their bit for the ‘boys’ fighting in the trenches in Europe during World War I,” said Elizabeth Hill, Arkansas Women’s History Institute member.
The event is based upon extensive research done by Hill for her new book, “‘Faithful to Our Tasks’: Arkansas’s Women and the Great War.”
According to Hill’s research, during World War I, the U.S. was struggling to provide enough meat, sugar and wheat for the troops overseas and the citizens at home. The federal government leaned on women to help ease these food shortages. Arkansas woman’s clubs came up with recipes and food substitutes, then distributed this information to households across the state.
The fledgling Cooperative Extension Service aided in the women’s mission with the home demonstration program. Home demonstration members trained women in gardening, canning and food substitutes. Cottage cheese became a popular substitute for meat because it was inexpensive and had a high protein content. The Extension Service hired a full-time cottage cheese specialist and trained agents in making and preparing it. The food the home demonstration agents produced in their gardens and livestock was valued at $500,000.
The festival will feature actors dressed in period costumes. Attendees can learn ideas for making meals around food shortages from a 1917 home demonstration agent and chat with soldiers home from Europe.
The event will also serve as an opportunity for teachers to get some professional development credit. Three researchers will give presentations throughout the day and there will be a special viewing of the “Women and the War” segment of the new PBS American Experience documentary, “The Great War.” Teachers who attend all three presentations and the viewing can receive two hours of professional development credit. To register to receive the credit, email contactAWHI@gmail.com.
“It’s going to be a super fun time for the whole family,” said Hill.
Attendees can also:
- Make a pennant advocating for women’s right to vote with suffragists.
- Learn to roll bandages on a rolling machine.
- Talk with experienced knitters and knit a few stitches yourself while learning about Red Cross work rooms.
- Speak with the great niece of an African American Red Cross nurse.
- Sign authentic cards promising to practice food conservation and indicating what jobs you would be willing to perform while the men were away, like the women of World War I did.
- Watch a comic silent film about war bonds.
- Take on the role of telephone operator by using an operator’s board to connect callers.
- Tour a collection of war propaganda posters.
- Children are encouraged to color, hear stories and make a screen-printed poster.
- Enjoy free bottled water provided by Premium Refreshment Services and ice cream provided by Blue Bell Creameries.
- Haygood BBQ will have food and beverages available for purchase.
The festival will take place at the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, March 4 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free to the public.
For more information about the festival contact the Arkansas Women’s History Institute at 501-777-8412 or contactAWHI@gmail.com, or visit http://www.arkansaswomen.org/, or their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ArkansasWomen/.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service