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Homespun manhood and the war against masculinity: community leisure on the US home front, 1917-19

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Between the Civil War and World War I, America saw a return to militarised, heroic, warrior forms of masculinity. When the United States entered the war in 1917, however, the demands for belligerent forms of military manhood subsided, and were replaced by a desire to reattach manhood to the domestic realm. In this article, I examine a set of government programmes designed to manage soldiers' leisure time while they were stationed in training camps across the US. I argue that these home front activities betray an anxiety about sending American soldiers to fight in an overseas war for the first time in national history. The US was a young nation state fighting its first international war against other equally statist nations. In this context, it was no longer strategically useful for military manhood to be severed from the idea of home. Rather, as soldiers would be fighting for long periods in an alien territory, it behoved the military and government to temper traditional configurations of warrior manhood, and focus instead on exposing soldiers to as much home and family as they could safely arrange.
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Keywords: United States; World War I; leisure; masculinity; war

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Hull, UK

Publication date: February 1, 2009

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