If I had to find another object to study and resources were unlimited, I would like to examine the pamphlets and posters about venereal diseases that were distributed to Canadian servicemen and women in the Second World War. I came across some of these little gems when I was studying women on the home front. They often contain illustrations or cartoons of “loose women” accompanied by two female companions labeled as syphilis and Gonorrhea. The choices that were made in how these diseases would be portrayed to servicemen reveals a variety of viewpoints about them from the time period.
This subject is interesting to me for a tons of reasons. First of all, ensuring the health of the troops was of vital importance for obvious reasons, and the way that the Canadian Government dealt with sexually transmitted diseases is very interesting. Some interesting differences in treatment can be seen by examining and comparing the pamphlets directed to both sexes. The information that the government chose to disseminate and how that information changed over time could show what the government was concerned with, thought was working to prevent disease, and what wasn’t. It is also interesting to see what forms of information the government thought was most effective at informing the service people.
The posters often have really intense imagery, or where sometimes obviously intended to be humorous. These different approaches taken can be analyzed to understand different strategies taken by the government to combat venereal diseases and how those approaches varied depending on the sex of the service people.
Here’s a nice example of a poster!