1914-1918: "the war effort" mobilizes all of society


  • We will know how to deprive ourselves of it.

  • Reserve the wine for our hairy.

We will know how to deprive ourselves of it.

© Contemporary Collections

Reserve the wine for our hairy.

© Contemporary Collections

Publication date: June 2006

Historical context

War of adults, "war of children"

1916: the Great War has been raging for two years now, depriving the children of their fathers and mothers of their support. At the rear, in December 1914, the “children's crusade” was organized under the sign of the Sacred Heart of Christ and the patronage of Joan of Arc - one sacrificed on the altar of suffering humanity, the other on that of the occupied homeland. School, children's press, toys, everything speaks to children of a heroic war, grandiose, omnipresent and unique at the same time.

Image Analysis

The privations of war: renouncing the small daily pleasures

The drawing by the schoolgirl Camille Boutet must have struck contemporaries with the quality of the drawing and the richness of the color. The dominant blue-red-white immediately underlines the patriotic context in which the poster was developed. The colors used are also those of the uniform of French soldiers… from 1870. The snow covering the sidewalk is conceived less as a symbol of the cold (the little girl on the left is not wearing a cape) than as a reminder of the white of the national flag. The oval frame, typical of portraiture, emphasizes the intimate aspect of this scene of everyday life that would not stand out in an illustrated newspaper from the turn of the century. However, the formula inscribed in letters of blood removes any ambiguity and accentuates the contrast between the interior of the store, well stocked, shimmering, and the exterior where the three tiny children are relegated. The latter offer themselves as an example to adults by renouncing their innocent pleasure.
The drawing of schoolgirl Suzanne Ferrand is even simpler than that of Camille Boutet, both in terms of composition and wording. In a double frame typical of the official posters of the time (cf. “Journée du poilu” of December 25 and 26, 1915), the apprentice poster artist demonstrates her know-how through the abundance of small details (seams of the bottle) , the variety of shades (grapes), the stylization of the bunch, the effects of light on the tin cup that we imagine to belong to a hairy man. The message of deprivation is clearly expressed here, this time aimed at adults. As in the previous poster, war is completely absent from the image and is signified only in writing. The slogan, "Save the wine for our hairy", sounds like a call to order and contrasts with the bucolic character of the design.


The 1916 remobilization

The first sponsor of these two posters is the municipal administration of the capital, Paris, which is organizing propaganda and mobilization in the form of a drawing competition on the theme of war economies. Most of the children involved, and among them "Suzanne Ferrand, 16", are in fact adolescents who continue their studies beyond the certificate of studies in upper primary schools. The second sponsor, the French Union for the Moral and Material Expansion of France, imposes the subject of the necessary restrictions in the middle of 1916, through its National Committee for Economic Welfare. The titles of the other selected cartoons are evocative: "Smokers from the rear, save the tobacco so the soldiers don't run out", or "Save the bread by eating potatoes". These themes reveal both a rear France, which suffers from various shortages, and the way of life of the soldiers at the front. The wine, which was distributed at the rate of two to three liters per day, and the bread, often stale, constituted the sad ordinary of the combatants. In 1916, the start of the war seemed far away, and its end uncertain. The only certainty is that total war requires the mobilization of economic players and of society as a whole. Adherence to the patriotic discourse is an integral part of the war effort, especially for children, forced to react to the expectations of adults, or even to behave like them. However, Camille Boutet's drawing, with its childish theme, its pleasant tones, its diffused color, gives freshness to an initiative weighed on by the very heavy psychological context of the conflict.

  • childhood
  • War of 14-18
  • nationalism
  • hairy
  • propaganda
  • wine


Stéphane AUDOIN-ROUZEAU, The Children's War, 1914-1918, Cultural History Essay, Paris, Armand Colin, 1993. Alfred and Françoise BRAUNER, I Drawn War, The Child's Drawing in War, Paris , Elsevie, 1991.Laurent GERVEREAU, “Propaganda through images in France, 1914-1918.Thèmes et modes de representation” in Laurent GERVEREAU and Christophe PROCHASSON, Images of 1917, Nanterre, BDIC, 1987.Marion PIGNOT, La Guerre crayons.When the little Parisians drew the Great War, Paris, Parigramme, 2004.Yves POURCHER, Les Jours de guerre.The life of the French from day to day between 1914 and 1918, Paris, Hachette, coll. “Pluriel”, 1995.Pierre VALLAUD, 14-18, World War I, volumes I and II, Paris, Fayard, 2004.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "1914-1918:" the war effort "mobilizes all of society"

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