Going to a liberal arts college is amazing, especially if your interests are as scattered as mine. I am an English major and an Education minor, but I also love Art and History. This semester I am taking “The History of World War I,” a 300-level history course, just for fun. I’ve always had a fascination with wars, especially the two World Wars, but most of my education has really focused on the Second World War. This class has taught me so much about the Great War, and it has also allowed me to combine my interests in art and history in the final research project.
My professor left the final research project pretty open—we were allowed to choose any topic that interested us as long as it was related to the First World War. Naturally, my first instinct was to look at art. But after my class visited the Special Collections section of our library, I modified my idea slightly. Special Collections is a section of our library where Colby keeps all kinds of really interesting artifacts. For our class, the librarians set up displays of WWI artifacts that are part of the college’s Pestana Collection (named after the man who collected and donated the majority of the objects in the collection). To me, the most interesting part of the collection was the propaganda posters. These posters are works of art, but they are works of art that were meant to stir very specific political emotions in the hearts of the public. I was struck by the portrayal of women in these posters, and thus the topic for my research paper was born: “Questioning Masculinity and Reinforcing Gender Roles: The Role of Women in World War One Propaganda.”
To give you an idea of the posters I am working with, I’ll include a couple at the end of this post. The major trends I noticed in the propaganda posters that depicted women were that these posters often targeted men’s masculinity through the depiction of women as passive, helpless figures. Interestingly, in the years leading up to WWI, there were major women’s rights movements occurring, but evidence of these movements isn’t shown in the propaganda posters of the era. I’m really excited to dig deeper into this topic! I’m so glad I have the opportunity at Colby to pursue all of my interests, not just those that revolve around my major and minor.
Until next time,