This post comes to us from Danna Bell-Russel of the Library of Congress.
Have you or your students ever sent letters or care packages to soldiers overseas? Contributed money to organizations that support the military? This practice isn’t new. Even as early as the American Revolutionary War, those left at home thought of ways to support those fighting to preserve our freedoms.
One of the ways that those left behind supported their military men was through creating clothing. The Library’s collections contain broadsides, photos, letters, and posters documenting drives to produce goods ranging from socks to slippers to sweaters. During the Civil War, one relief association even gave Abraham Lincoln a sofa cushion.
One broadside pattern provides directions for making slippers for Union soldiers recovering in hospitals. In the first six months of 1862, the Ladies’ Aid Society of Philadelphia distributed more than 1000 pairs of slippers, as well as thousands of boxes of other clothing, bedding, food, medicines, and books. Another poster encouraged those at home to knit socks for those fighting abroad during World War I.
- Ask students why clothing patterns like these were created. How did they benefit the soldiers overseas and, more importantly, those at home?
- Write a letter from the point of view of a soldier, a family member on the home front, or even one of the knitted socks! What is the writer seeing, hearing, thinking, or feeling? How does the writer feel about receiving or sending the care package?
- Invite students to research other ways Americans on the home front have supported the troops throughout history. Then, compare and contrast these efforts. What has changed? What has stayed the same? Why?
- Challenge students to organize a school-wide effort to support the troops. Maybe students choose to knit socks, write letters, or raise money for care packages. (Students could even create slippers using the pattern on the broadside.) Ask students to consider what insights this gives them into the point of view of participants in earlier wartime support efforts.
Can you think of other ways to help students explore war drives in U.S. history?