Polished Paragraph – The Legacy of the American Red Cross on Gender and War

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Following the First World War, the American Red Cross achieved international recognition and fame but also transformed itself into a major national humanitarian organization by the end of the conflict. In addition to its phenomenal growth during the war, the programs it created in order to alleviate the pain and suffering of soldiers, civilians, and foreigners alike would forever cement its place as the nation’s humanitarian relief organization. One of the many debates surrounding the topic of the American Red Cross on gender and war came in the form of its transformation or the “rise and fall” of the organization as it began to adopt an international sensibility and responsibility to help others, especially foreigners, during the war. In Julia F. Irwin’s Making the World Safe: The American Red Cross and a Nation’s Humanitarian Awakening, she explicitly stated that by implementing languages of obligation as part of their rhetorical strategy during World War I, the American Red Cross helped convinced U.S. citizens that it was of a vital national interest to donate their money and time to not only help foreigners in need but also the war effort. Marian Moser Jones’ The American Red Cross from Clara Barton to the New Deal, on the other hand, also detailed the transformation of the American Red Cross and how the war ultimately transformed the organization into the powerful institution that remains today.

Another debate or theme involving the American Red Cross that the authors in my annotated bibliography all have in common with would be the experiences of women who have made countless of sacrifices for their nation in times of war. From their roles as nurses and volunteers, these women battled sexism and racism, worked long hours and in sufferable conditions, and yet, they still accomplished an extraordinary amount of work through their philanthropic efforts overseas. In addition to exploring the cultural shifts of women’s involvement and the responsibilities of women during wartime, historians have also looked at how ideas of motherhood have come to shape the war effort both at home and abroad. Through the use of American Red Cross posters produced between 1914 and 1918, P.J. Lopez’s “American Red Cross Posters and the Cultural Politics of Motherhood in World War I” looked at how they became a fundamental propaganda tool for communicating notions of femininity and patriotism to American women while also exploring the influences of U.S. involvement in the war as well as the social constructions of white femininity of the time.