During the World War II era booklets were published to assist homemakers, who were mostly women at that time, provide for their families and meet the requirements of the wartime ration system created just over eight months after the United States entered the war in response to the attack on Pearl Harbor in December,1941. President Roosevelt’s executive order 8875 established the Office of Price Administration (OPA) on August 28, 1942. The OPA determined the prices of most goods and limited the amount of goods available for purchase across the country.
Products such as butter, canned milk, sugar, gasoline, coal, firewood, nylon, silk, and shoes were rationed as they were needed for the war effort and because trade was disrupted by the war which made some items less available. The first ration cards were distributed across the country in May 1942. People could use their ration cards and stamps to get a small share of needed household items including coffee, dairy products, dried fruits, jams, jellies, lard, oils, and shortening for baking purposes. As part of the wartime rationing system, the government issues “points” to each person, including infants, which could be used along with money to purchase items which included restricted items, or which were in very limited supply. By the end of 1945, sugar was the only remaining product still rationed. The wartime rationing program ended June 1947. Although it took time for the supply to catch up with demand, the economy rebounded, and products became more readily available.
Many companies, like the Kelvinator Appliance Company, held national contests and published suggestions to help homemakers make the most of what was available at the time and within the wartime ration point system. As this image depicts, meat was in short supply and to save meat ration points, some suggested using rabbit as substitute for meat in a variety of recipes. The recipes often came with advice such as how to best prepare rabbit and techniques for cooking older versus young rabbits. Other suggestions in these publications might offer tips on stretching sugar rations, including substituting corn syrup or honey for part of the sugar when baking, and how to make one- crust pies rather than two- crust pies. Publications like those put out by the Kelvinator Appliance Company would have been available in Virginia and homemakers across the state could have used them to find solutions to provide for their families.
Citation: A suggested means of saving ration points—using rabbit for the meat dish. From a “Helps for Homemakers” booklet produced by Kelvinator circa 1943–1945. Jessee Family Papers, Accession 50402, Library of Virginia.
Art: 4.1, 5.1
Take a Look: Look at the image. What stands out to you? What do you think the image represents?
Current Connections: During the Coronavirus pandemic many household items such as cleaning products and toilet paper were in short supply. What are some ways people saved resources while providing meals and necessary items for themselves or their families?
Up for Debate: How do you think women of today's generation would feel about a booklet such as this one? Would it be considered helpful? Insulting? Prepare an opening argument in which you state your position and be prepared to share it with the class or in small groups.
Art Exploration: Design a similar handbook page that might be used today if a rationing system were to become needed. Select a food product to be used as the basis for your design.