Wednesday, January 3, 2018

An Association Fights "the Enemy at Home"

During World War I, the newly formed American Social Hygiene Association campaigned to arrest the spread of venereal disease, an incurable "enemy" afflicting over 100,000 Americans soldiers.

The association teamed with the War Department to teach American boys how to avoid the infections, and worked with local civilian and military police to break up the prostitution rings that plied near military bases.

To convince soldiers of the wisdom of remaining disease-free, the association distributed pamphlets, posters, slide shows and films that relied on a mix of medical facts, appeals to patriotism, and moral suasion. 

One pamphlet depicted a patriotic mother fretting over the chance her soldier-son will catch VD. "She does not fear your death—your honorable death," the pamphlet said, "but the dread that you may become innocently contaminated pulls at her heart-strings.”

To break up prostitution rings, association members joined forces with local vice squads and the military police to round up and jail prostitutes and seal off red-light districts.

The Stars and Stripes proudly reported: “Mothers need have no fear that their sons are being dragged down to hell by vicious women.”

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