Rationing became an essential practice during the Second World War. Although the situation was much worse in parts of Europe who were fighting in the war, such as Britain, the United States of America also opted to encourage the public into adopting rationing policies. The reason for this is because America only joined the war effort in 1941 and had not been stockpiling supplies before this. In order to ensure that the soldiers being sent overseas had enough sustenance, the American government pushed the idea of rationing food supplies onto the public, most prominently in the form of war posters and commercials. A new office, the Office of Price Administration, was opened in order to prevent inflation and to start a rationing effort so that all American citizens and not only the rich could have sufficient food sources. Because many women were left as the head of the house when their husbands or fathers were sent to fight in the war, a lot of this rationing propaganda was directed towards them.
As in other areas of propaganda, the use of guilt was implemented in many of the rationing advertisements directed at women. Several posters showed younger male soldiers with food and stating that because those at home were doing with less, those in combat overseas could continue to fight for their country. There were also posters which showed American soldiers who were destitute and hungry. These sorts of posters pushed a sense of blame onto those who did not participate in rationing. There was also a major push for people to save food by canning anything that they could in order to make it last longer. Again, these efforts were mainly directed at women as the role of housewife usually included buying and cooking food for the entire family. These posters were also pushing the ration books and stamps which were distributed throughout the country in order to keep the food supplies in check.
Propaganda war posters also advocated for limiting the use of gasoline. Different stickers to put on automobiles were issued by the government. These labels had different letters on them which indicated how much gasoline each person was allowed to purchase each week. At the end of 1942, about half of all cars in the United States were issued an “A” sticker, which meant that they were only able to purchase four gallons of fuel per week. Automobiles which were seen as crucial to the war effort were granted more fuel usage. Women were often targeted in gasoline regulating posters as they were the ones who used cars the most during the war period to get around. Although their popularity promoted by government propaganda posters, the car clubs that began to arise were usually locally organized by citizens. The main participants in these were women who often needed to get into town to purchase food or to needed to travel to their jobs.
Clothes were rationed as well on the American home front during the war era. Many companies who were producing for the war needed extra raw materials such as fabrics to produce supplies and uniforms for soldiers in battle. To make sure that enough textiles were available, war posters promoted the preservation of clothes which people already owned. Many war propaganda posters advocated for women to mend any clothes that were ripped or torn instead of buying new ones. This was because women were typically the ones who took care of the washing and repairing of garments as it was part of the housewife role. Eventually the government had to ration the amount of clothing being bought by families. Shoes were especially hard to come by since they were a critical supply item for the fighting soldiers.
The following is a video promoting rationing in America: