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World War II Victory Garden title

In 1944, Will’s catalog essay was titled “Garden for Victory.” The essay, presumably written by George F. Will, drew connections between his/his father’s passionate interest in the horticulture of the Hidatsa, Mandan, and Arikara, and the significant images relative to the war effort. In part the essay reads:

. . . . We are all doing it and the novelty of the idea has appealed to many. Fundamentally thought, it has been the basic pursuit of humanity since agriculture began.

On our cover we picture the first Victory gardeners in Dakota. Had they not gardened most industriously on our Dakota soils they would have perished entirely. And they used to go out to the garden patches often with an armed guard, and many of them lost their lives in the gardens by enemy attacks. Our enemies are attacking many thousands of miles away. When the village Indian gardens did not produce the people did not eat. That is hardly true for us, but we can well put a little of the grim purpose of the Indian gardener and of the sturdy pioneer settler at the head of this paragraph into our own gardening efforts and thereby contribute more to the extreme and developing need for food for the whole world during the coming year.

It is impossible to know how many families continued to work in gardens of the recommended wartime size or continued gardening at all as the soldiers returned home, rationing abated, and abundance returned to the local grocery. Presumably, the post-war social arrangement with many young mothers remaining at home to raise their children would have provided the time and labor for a home garden. However, post-war prosperity was entwined with the image of the idle housewife whose husband provided all the family’s needs through his paycheck – an image confirmed by the restless protest of some educated suburban women in Women Strike for Peace (1961), women’s equality organizations (1960s), and Betty Friedan’s research for The Feminine Mystique (1963). Not a likely scenario for widespread interest in home gardening. In North Dakota, farm home gardens very likely continued to grow at a rate higher than that of 1940, while urban gardens more likely decreased in number.