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Laura McEnaney on: The Militarization of American Families
Laura McEnaney Q: Can you talk about the home protection drills?

LM: Yes. A very vivid example of how the family becomes militarized in the 1950s is the home protection exercises, which was a workbook of drills and exercises that families were supposed to perform routinely, perhaps weekly, perhaps monthly. And each family member had a particular job. Fathers to build the shelter, mothers to stock the shelter, children to make sure that there was no debris around the shelter, to practice various drills that children could handle, like making sure that the brooms and the mops were in the right place in the shelter, very basic things. But each family member had a particular task.

And the home protection exercises emphasized drilling as a way, again, of making sure that families could perform their duties in the face of attack instinctively, without panic. That was very important, programming people to be calm, to be rational, to accept the fact of nuclear war, to accept the fact of the hydrogen bomb, and to accept the fact of home front preparedness. And each time a family performed these tasks successfully, they were supposed to check it off in the workbook.

And one of the ideas floated by women's organizations in the late 1950s was to reward each family that had successfully performed the home protection exercises with a home protection sticker. And the idea was that local female civil defense volunteers would go from house to house on every block, meet with the homemaker, make sure she had done the appropriate, taken the appropriate steps to make the home ready for attack. And she, the family, would be rewarded with a sticker that they would put in their window to show their patriotism, to show that they had done their duty in the nuclear age, and to advertise to other families the importance of being ready for the big one.

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