Armistice Day is a time to reflect upon that defining moment at the end of World War I, at 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918, when soldiers stopped shooting at each other along Europe’s Western Front. At its close, most observers assumed that nothing would ever match the “Great War” for its sheer volumes of death and destruction, and for decades after, people around the world stopped whatever they were doing at that hour to observe two minutes of silence in a mute echo of the quiet that must have blanketed the battlefield. As the world soon learned, the sadly quaint practice of holding one’s tongue for 120 seconds, once a year, would not be enough: After World War II, the holiday’s name was changed in the United States to Veterans Day, while countries in the British Commonwealth observed Remembrance Day.
Looking back on the recruiting posters from that war, it’s interesting to note how portrayals of women and children, as well as the comforts of home, were used to essentially guilt-trip able-bodied men into enlisting for a tour of duty in the trenches. In the United States, women were generally depicted as the ones who’d keep the home fires burning while their sons and husbands were fighting the good fight “over there.” Less passive were the depictions of women in France, whose sacrifices were often used to literally shame men into doing their duty. In retrospect, the portrayal of World War I-era women is not as glamorous as that of the Rosie the Riveters in World War II, but their role in the conflict from a propaganda standpoint was every bit as vital to the war effort, as shown in these posters from the U.S. Library of Congress.