Planting Victory

In the wake of Veterans Day, when we honor those who have been willing to place themselves in harm’s way to serve their country, it feels appropriate to highlight the efforts of civilians who supported service members’ work during war time by doing their bit at home.

Barbara Natanson, head of the Prints & Photographs Reading Room, recently pointed out to me this 1943 image of a group of Girl Scouts engaged in a useful “game” called Plant the Victory Garden. One girl appears to be multi-tasking, eating a cookie while the three implement their planting strategy. This photo is one of over a dozen made by Ann Rosener to document Victory Garden cultivation, which helped ease food shortages during World War II.

<em>Victory Gardens--for family and country. Hopscotch has been supplanted by a new and serious game for these Girl Scouts--it's called Plant the Victory Garden. Like thousands of other school-age youngsters, Pat Nelson, Doris Laclair and Barbara Redford, all of San Francisco, are enthusiastic participants in the nation-wide Food for Victory campaign. Doris seems to be jumping the gun slightly, but at this stage cookies are more palatable than embryonic cabbages. </em>Photo by Ann Rosener, 1943 Feb.-Mar. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8b08126

Victory Gardens–for family and country. Hopscotch has been supplanted by a new and serious game for these Girl Scouts–it’s called Plant the Victory Garden. Like thousands of other school-age youngsters, Pat Nelson, Doris Laclair and Barbara Redford, all of San Francisco, are enthusiastic participants in the nation-wide Food for Victory campaign. Doris seems to be jumping the gun slightly, but at this stage cookies are more palatable than embryonic cabbages. Photo by Ann Rosener, 1943 Feb.-Mar. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8b08126

People of all ages can be seen contributing to Victory Gardens, including these boys, who are browsing through seed packets and contemplating which ones to select. The caption seems to indicate a general aversion to spinach.

<em>Victory Gardens--for family and country. There's no age limit when Americans get down to the business of preparing for a Victory Garden. These youngsters are carefully selecting seeds for the vegetables they'll be growing this summer: carrots, beets, tomatoes, squash. The estimable spinach will no doubt be left upon the dealer's shelves.</em> Photo by Ann Rosener, 1943. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8b08122

Victory Gardens–for family and country. There’s no age limit when Americans get down to the business of preparing for a Victory Garden. These youngsters are carefully selecting seeds for the vegetables they’ll be growing this summer: carrots, beets, tomatoes, squash. The estimable spinach will no doubt be left upon the dealer’s shelves. Photo by Ann Rosener, 1943. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8b08122

Some captions provide tips for individuals who might be in the early stages of Victory Garden planning. The one below stresses the importance of a good watering strategy.

Victory Gardens–for family and country. Frequent watering of the Victory Garden is necessary during the early stages of growth. The soil should be well watered and watering should not be done during strong sunshine. Photo by Ann Rosener, 1943. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8b08129

At a time when most Americans are removed from the labor and effects of war, these images serve as a reminder of how past conflicts have elicited a coordinated effort by members of the military and civilians alike.

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4 Comments

  1. Richard A Pearlson
    November 14, 2019 at 3:07 pm

    It is with both joy and appreciation that I experienced Planting Victory. Having been a girl scout dad….along with a sensitivity to the quest to have America feel empowered to both honor it’s heritage and feel inspired to further the work that was done by so many worthy others, of our past.

    I find the Library of Congress a constant source of inspiration and encouragement. Providing both our truth, which sometime clearly shows what we have done wrong and needs for us to work towards making right and those efforts as in this case the girl scouts of the past leading us to a better future. The gift of knowledge is being nurtured by you in so many ways that I add my voice to all that thank you.

  2. Jane Van Nimmen
    November 14, 2019 at 7:56 pm

    As a planter and a scout, I heartily endorse Richard Pearlson’s note of thanks to Barbara’s and Melissa’s tribute to Victory Gardeners. I was not the most astute participant. In 1943 I planted not only carrots in the Victory Garden behind our apartment building, but my favorite food, olives stuffed with pimiento. I was only six years old then, not even a Brownie. I’m still sprouting a more productive favorite food: avocados. What lovely reminders of those days you offer your readers.

  3. Shirley Aaron
    November 17, 2019 at 4:50 pm

    My family had a large garden in our back yard.

    Shirley Connell Aaron

  4. Melissa Lindberg
    November 25, 2019 at 9:08 am

    Thanks very much for sharing your experiences — and for reading!

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