Champions of Charity: War and the Rise of the Red Cross

TitleChampions of Charity: War and the Rise of the Red Cross
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsHutchinson, John F.
Number of Pages400
PublisherIthaca Cornell University Press
CityIthaca, New York
Abstract

In Champions of Charity, John Hutchinson argues that while they set out with a vision to make war more humane, the world's Red Cross organizations soon became enthusiastic promoters of militarism and sacrifice in time of war. In World War I, national Red Cross societies became enthusiastic wartime propagandists. This was true in every combatant nation, and it is a transformation well portrayed by the fascinating selection of art in this book. Soon Red Cross personnel were even sporting military-style uniforms, and in the United States, the Red Cross became so identified with the war effort that an American citizen was convicted of treason for criticizing the Red Cross in time of war! The Red Cross played an especially important role in encouraging the mass involvement of women in the "home front" for the first time. It did this through magazines, postcards, posters, bandage-rolling parties, and speeches that blended romantic images of humanitarianism and war into a unique brand of maternal militarism. A true pioneer in mass propaganda, the Red Cross taught millions that preparation for war was not just a patriotic duty but a normal and desirable social activity. The Red Cross societies had proven their usefulness in mobilizing civilians in wartime, and most of their functions were taken over by government agencies by the time of World War II. Gradually the Red Cross became better known for its work in public health, disaster relief, and lifesaving classes. But the legacy of a darker past still lingers: the red cross on a white background found on army ambulances, or the unsubtle subtext of sacrifice and heroism in Red Cross television advertising.

(UNC Chapel Hill)

Short TitleChampions of Charity
Reprint Edition1997
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898492980

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