Additional Links

Back to the 1950s

The Federal Civil Defense Agency (FCDA) Women Defend the Nation (1950)

Popular culture often depicts America in the 1950s as a carefree and powerful nation. According to this line of thinking, Americans, overjoyed with their victory in World War II, embraced the postwar prosperity by adopting a consumer lifestyle. One of the most prevalent icons of the decade, women as homemakers and mothers, has been widely accepted as historical fact. Many women did follow the prescriptive literature of the day that instructed females’ happiness only could be attained through marriage, motherhood, and an orderly home in the suburbs. However, just like the time period itself, women living during the 1950s deserve a closer analysis. Millions of women participated in the peacetime civil defense effort organized by the federal government after the war. The national campaign to prepare for possible nuclear war allowed women to escape the narrow confinements of acceptable female behavior in the name of patriotism. Women’s prominent involvement in civil defense therefore challenges the notion that the 1950s remained a dormant period for women’s activism in the United States.

Resulting from concern about Soviet aggression in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, in addition to the knowledge that the Russians had successfully tested their own atomic bomb, Congress passed the Federal Civil Defense Act in 1950. President Harry Truman promptly approved the legislation declaring that civil defense, “designed to protect life and property in the United States in case of enemy assault,” soon would become an essential element of national security.[1] The Federal Civil Defense Agency (FCDA), authorized under the Federal Civil Defense Act, took the lead in setting the tone for the new national program.

Led by the former governor of Florida, Millard Caldwell, the FCDA embarked on an enthusiastic campaign to teach the American public how to survive a nuclear attack.[2] Informing the public of the impossibility of stopping an air assault by the Soviets, Caldwell emphasized that the “back yard may be the next front line.”[3] In order to prepare American citizens for a domestic attack, the FCDA distributed millions of instructive manuals, handbooks, and pamphlets. One such booklet, How to Survive an Atomic Bomb, stressed the necessity of avoiding panic. It argued that by learning exactly what to do in case of nuclear attack, ordinary citizens with no military training had a good chance of survival. The optimistic tone of the literature, as evidenced by such statements as proper preparation will ensure that “our homes, our towns, our cities, [and] our country will come through this all right,” reinforced the belief that civil defense had the potential to save both lives and property.[4]

Although Truman characterized civil defense as “the major means of safeguarding the people, property, and production” of the United States, he left the bulk of the responsibility for the effort in the hands of state and local government officials.[5] The FCDA reiterated this policy in its publications by explaining that they developed basic planning and technical information for civil defense campaigns in the individual states. Moreover, the FCDA also implied that civil defense rested on the assumption that citizens learn how to protect themselves instead of relying upon the armed services.[6] In other words, in order for civil defense to succeed on the national level, millions of Americans would have to take the lead in organizing local operations. Women, viewed by many as homemakers with free time to spare, soon became the target of a massive civil defense recruiting campaign by the federal government.

Similar to the government plea during World War II for women to leave the home to take jobs in the factories, American women once again found themselves asked to “serve” their country. Because Congress consistently refused to allocate the substantial funds for civil defense requested by FCDA Director Caldwell, finding people willing to volunteer became even more imperative.[7] Government surveys suggested that of the approximately seventeen million people needed to make civil defense a success, women should constitute over fifty-percent of the total, for if attacked men would have to take up arms to defend the nation.[8] Additionally, faced with widespread apathy and doubt about the practicality of civil defense (both in the general public and by many politicians), the FCDA hoped women’s “inherent” abilities of persuasion would help convince the public of the necessity of the program. Utilizing traditional gender stereotypes that portrayed women as mothers and nurturers, the federal government implored women to join civil defense not only to save the country, but their families as well. In short, civil defense became a family affair.[9]

By linking civil defense with the family, the FCDA hoped to enlist the assistance of women without disrupting the clearly defined gender divisions of the period. For example, the government encouraged men to volunteer as fire fighters or rescue workers because such civil defense jobs matched their abilities. Women, on the other hand, were directed to care for children and nurse the sick following an enemy attack.[10] The three most common instructions for women in civil defense publications - training family members how to prepare for attack, containing fear and panic, and organizing the home in case of disaster - demonstrate the effort by the government to reinforce the role of women as homemakers.[11] Told that “good housekeeping is the first line of defense against fire” in the case of attack, women also received tips about how to stock first-aid kits for the home, prepare shelters in the basement, and recognize the many different air-raid alert signals.[12]

Two of the most prominent FCDA campaigns, Grandma’s Pantry and Duck and Cover, highlighted the significance of women’s participation in civil defense. By evoking memories of a simpler time when “grandma” always had enough food and drink in the cupboard to safeguard her family from any natural disaster (floods, blizzards, or hurricanes), Grandma’s Pantry reminded women of the 1950s that they too must have a well-stocked home in case of a nuclear attack. In addition to non-perishable canned food and bottled water, the FCDA brochure stated women should keep a flashlight, first-aid kit, and portable radio in the home at all times.[13] The domestic imagery used in the Grandma’s Pantry promotion attempted to convince women of their responsibility to protect their families during both times of peace and war.

Another highly publicized FCDA campaign, Duck and Cover, also encouraged widespread female participation. Echoing President Truman’s motto that “education is our first line of defense,” the FCDA invented the cartoon character “Bert the Turtle” to teach schoolchildren how to act if caught in a nuclear attack. Bert reminded children that since they did not have a shell like he had, they had to “duck and cover” to protect themselves during an enemy strike.[14] Although the FCDA distributed Duck and Cover instructional booklets to schools across the nation, government officials expected parents, most especially mothers, to reinforce the lessons of civil defense exercises in the home. Mothers were encouraged to make a game of “duck and cover” for their children in an effort to assuage their fears of nuclear war. The FCDA hoped women would use their maternal expertise to ensure that children remained calm, instead if panicking during an atomic attack.[15]

Although the government sought to enlist the assistance of women without shifting the prescribed gender roles of the 1950s, their actions did have two unintended results. First, the attention paid to domestic chores as a possible deterrent to mass destruction gave women’s work in the home new importance and dignity. Women who kept tidy homes, a properly stocked first-aid kit, and an adequate supply of food and water, not only helped their family survive, but also contributed to national security.[16] Second, the emphasis placed on the home and family gradually caused the “feminization” of civil defense. Despite the fact that both men and women volunteered for civil defense, the public perceived the program as women’s work because the FCDA stressed the importance of protecting the home and family from nuclear attack. All in all, by the end of the decade the federal government had directed a national campaign that highlighted the unique skills of women. According to the FCDA, women’s domestic work could be harnessed to protect the nation from nuclear annihilation, which in turn would preserve the American way of life grounded in freedom and democracy.

On the surface the government recruitment of citizens for civil defense appeared to follow a gender-specific pattern. Whereas men received encouragement to volunteer for tasks requiring strength and intelligence, the FCDA advised women to participate in jobs closely associated with their alleged talents - child-care, housework, and social services. Nevertheless, a close examination of the government sponsored civil defense literature of the 1950s indicates that at times women had the opportunity to perform duties not normally associated with females. For instance, upon the request of the FCDA, women routinely volunteered as spotters for the U.S. Air Force. Trained to watch for unidentified hostile planes, women had the vital position of warning nearby cities of an impending attack, in the hopes that an early detection of a nuclear assault would allow people the necessary time to prepare.[17]

Block wardens, one of the most influential civil defense positions an average citizen could hope to obtain, was advertised by the government as a job well-suited for women. Because male FCDA officials believed most women stayed at home each day, women seemed like good candidates for the post. Defined as the “backbone of civil defense,” block wardens assumed considerable responsibilities both in the neighborhood and the community at-large.[18] Responsible for an average of 500 people, block wardens taught civil defense regulations, prepared a map of the neighborhood, kept an accurate census of the block, trained people how to fight fires and administer first-aid, distributed government literature, and remained in charge of preventing panic. Two of the most important aspects of the job, designating responsibility and exhibiting leadership qualities, normally traits associated with men not women, required that block wardens occupy a high-profile position in the community.[19] By openly recruiting women for such a complex and difficult job, the FCDA validated the capabilities of women outside their traditional sector of the home.

Although not the typical scenario, the high-profile success of individual women in the civil defense campaign, demonstrated how the call to “minimize the effects upon the civilian population caused by an attack upon the United States” could both expand and justify a more public role for American women.[20] One of the most prominent female civil defense leaders, Katherine Graham Howard, symbolized this trend. During the 1952 presidential campaign, Howard supported the Republican candidate Dwight Eisenhower. As Secretary of the Republican Convention that year, Howard became the first woman to read the roll call for a presidential nomination. Shortly after Eisenhower took office in January 1953, he rewarded his long-time friend and political supporter by asking her to serve as Assistant Administrator to the FCDA. Accepting Eisenhower’s proposal to join his administration, Howard worked tirelessly to recruit more women to the cause and convince the American public of the necessity of civil defense.[21]

Similar to his predecessor Truman, Eisenhower believed an American civil defense program had merit. Claiming that, “vigilance and preparedness [would] minimize the effects of any disaster,” Eisenhower even surmised that an efficient civil defense program could “deter aggression itself.”[22] Yet despite his public praise for civil defense, the FCDA, and high-ranking officials of the organization such as Howard, Eisenhower (like Truman) believed the responsibility of home protection should rest with the states and local authorities rather than the federal government. Moreover, because Eisenhower failed to stress the necessity of civil defense for American national security, Congress never appropriated the amount of money the FCDA claimed necessary for a successful home protection initiative.[23] On the whole, Eisenhower’s reluctance to give high priority to civil defense paved the way for women’s involvement in the effort. Forced to rely upon volunteers, the national government appealed to the patriotic duty of women and encouraged them to leave their homes in order to protect the nation from nuclear destruction.

The existence of a full-fledged women’s division for civil defense (established in 1953) confirms that the federal government viewed the involvement of women in home protection as critical. The National Women’s Advisory Committee on Civil Defense worked within the FCDA to determine how women could best contribute to the national security campaign. During her tenure as Assistant Administrator of the FCDA, Howard collaborated closely with the Women’s Advisory Committee, President Eisenhower, and the Director of the FCDA, former Nebraska Senator Val Peterson. Additionally, Howard often left the Washington, D.C. area to travel across the country to publicize the national civil defense program. Between March 1953 and August 1954 (Howard resigned from her position after seventeen months) she gave sixty-eight speeches, appeared on twenty-eight radio programs, and held twelve press conferences.[24] Even though Howard logged considerable hours advertising the value of civil defense in her capacity as Assistant Administrator of the FCDA, she spent the majority of her time focusing on the relationship between civil defense and three specific areas: education, women, and NATO.

Marketed by the government as the fundamental defense against a nuclear attack, the FCDA published a series of booklets, entitled Home Protection Exercises, for American families. Howard authored many of the educational pamphlets that taught housewives how the careful completion of ordinary domestic chores could help prevent panic and chaos following an enemy assault.[25] Although the government sponsored protection exercises targeting the entire family, Howard, with the support of Eisenhower and Peterson, suggested that women needed to assume a leadership role in readying the home against a potential nuclear holocaust. Each booklet (the FCDA incorporated a diverse grouping of home protection guides in each publication ranging from “Home Fire Prevention” to “Home Decontamination”) included step-by-step instructions, checklists, and illustrations on how to successfully protect the home. The “Home Nursing” section of Home Protection Exercises encouraged women to have family members practice caring for the elderly and injured, including such nursing skills as changing a bed linen with a patient in the bed.[26] Howard and the FCDA hoped the Home Protection Exercises would convince women that if they kept an orderly home, learned first-aid, and supervised the rehearsal of civil defense practice exercises among family members, the average American family could in fact survive a nuclear attack.

As the leading female administrator in the FCDA, the government expected Howard to use her prestigious position to solicit the nationwide support of women for civil defense. In her numerous speeches, Howard rarely failed to praise the work of women who volunteered for civil defense while also highlighting the need for millions more American females to join the cause. Howard used a variety of tactics to convince women to participate in the domestic preparation of the home front. In addition to fear (of death and destruction), patriotism (most especially by comparing the efforts of Soviet and American women in their respective civil defense campaigns), and family responsibility (protection of children), Howard also told women civil defense was a unique opportunity for them to display leadership in a public setting.[27] Additionally, Howard organized conferences for women interested in civil defense. During one such meeting Eisenhower reminded women that they must act as leaders in order to “overcome the reluctance of people,” regarding the merit of civil defense. Remarking how he marveled at the persuasive skills of women he went on to exclaim that “The strength of the United States is represented . . . in the spirit that you women show, not only in your comprehension of what this thing is about, and what you must do, but your readiness to do it.”[28]

In addition to her busy schedule at home, Howard also traveled abroad to learn more about the European civil defense efforts already in operation. Asked to represent the United States on the NATO Civil Defense Committee, Howard became the first woman from any country to hold an international position on civil defense.[29] During her first trip to Europe as Chief U.S. Delegate on Civil Defense in November 1953, she toured Sweden and Denmark. Implemented during World War II, the civil defense programs used by these nations relied upon a sizable corps of volunteers who pledged to participate in sixty hours of training each year. Realizing most Europeans did not share the skepticism for civil defense that many Americans expressed (because of the massive bombing of European cities during the war, learning how to prepare for a catastrophe seemed pertinent), Howard nonetheless hoped the United States could one day build a home protection program of similar scale and effectiveness as the ones she witnessed during her journey to Europe.[30]

During May 1954, Howard made her second trip to Europe as U.S. Chief Delegate on Civil Defense. Asked by Eisenhower to provide an explanation to NATO regarding the American position on the testing of hydrogen bombs, Howard found herself forced to defend the American military action, “Operation Ivy.” Three months earlier, Eisenhower informed Congress that the United States had successfully detonated a full-scale hydrogen bomb on November 1, 1952, on Eniwetok Atoll, a small island located in the North Pacific. Due to the potential worldwide repercussions of such an act, NATO assembled a conference to discuss “Operation Ivy.” At the meeting, Howard showed a film recently released by the FCDA documenting the nuclear explosion. She explained that the test was a “necessary first step,” but also reassured the other delegates that the U.S. only conducted the operation as a means to deter the beginning of another war. Finally, Howard took advantage of the situation by stressing the need for civil defense. If the hydrogen bomb somehow ended up in the “wrong” hands, she speculated, the member countries of NATO needed efficient civil defense if they hoped to survive a nuclear attack.[31]

Less than two years after her acceptance of the prominent FCDA position, Howard submitted her letter of resignation to Eisenhower on June 29, 1954. Citing personal reasons for her decision (mainly the fact that her husband had a promising political career in Massachusetts), she expressed regret at leaving such “a challenging and rewarding career.”[32] Even though disappointed with the abrupt resignation of his friend and supporter, Eisenhower wasted little time in appointing another woman to replace Howard as Assistant Administrator of the FCDA. Jean Wood Fuller, President of the California Federation of Republican Women, enthusiastically accepted the post.[33] Fuller argued women’s innate skills of nursing, teaching, and nurturing, made females the perfect volunteers for civil defense. She criticized women’s groups who opposed civil defense, such as the American Association of University Women, hinting that they lacked patriotism and loyalty to the nation.[34] Much like her predecessor Howard, Fuller spent considerable energy recruiting women to the cause and attempting to convince the general public of the value and necessity of civil defense in the United States.

Besides appointing women like Howard and Fuller to leading civil defense positions, Eisenhower and Truman also approved the selection of women as assistants to the nine regional offices of the FCDA. Caldwell (FCDA Director under Truman) applauded the many female appointments, exclaiming that, “since the inception of this agency [FCDA] we have emphasized that the women of America are the key to a powerful and effective civil defense.”[35] Hoping that the placement of women in high profile civil defense posts would encourage even more females to volunteer, the FCDA also wanted to project the clear message that the federal government valued the role of women in American society.

In order to attract the millions of women volunteers deemed necessary by military experts for a proficient civil defense program, the FCDA realized it must win the support of the numerous women’s organizations across the nation. Government sponsored civil defense publications such as Women in Civil Defense, implored women’s organizations to notify its members about the need for volunteers. The FCDA booklet attempted to solidify support by appealing to the maternal instincts of women’s club leaders:

“Remember this is not a temporary thing - your daughter will need a strong civil defense program, too, when she is old enough to join your organization.” Quick to answer the call for assistance articulated by the FCDA, Mrs. Hiram Cole Houghton, President of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, made a public appearance during the spring of 1952 pledging her support for home protection. Houghton promised to instigate an intense campaign to solicit volunteers among the millions of members of women’s organizations and clubs.[36] Another influential organization, the National Association of Business and Professional Women (BPW) also vowed to promote the value of civil defense among its members. During the 1950s, the BPW remained true to its word, organizing speaking tours, conferences, and training sessions on behalf of civil defense.[37] Generally speaking, the FCDA considered the backing of women’s clubs beneficial for civil defense and subsequently encouraged groups such as the BPW to aggressively recruit female volunteers.

The leading women’s clubs of America utilized a variety of techniques to convince its members to participate in civil defense. Articles in club newspapers warned that the survival of the country depended not on just the federal, state, and local governments, but on individual women because they possessed the domestic and maternal skills required to help the nation cope with a disaster. Other newspaper items placed the responsibility for civil defense in the hands of women by suggesting that if mothers truly cared about the welfare of their family they would prove it by assuming a leading role in the civil defense planning in their community. Moreover, conferences organized by women’s clubs to publicize home defense claimed that “if women get interested in civil defense in a community, then men will,” thereby reinforcing the notion that the success (or for that matter, the failure) of civil defense rested with women.[38]

As well as patriotism and familial obligations, club directors also used fear as a motivating factor to encourage widespread female participation in civil defense. Emphasizing that in addition to having a formidable army and navy, the Soviets also had atomic weapons, women learned that civil defense remained their only chance for survival.[39] However, rather than only using negative factors to increase the participation of women in home protection programs, clubs like the BPW stressed the benefits for women if they joined civil defense.[40] Since the FCDA openly advertised that, “the categories open to women volunteers run across the whole field of operational services,” club leaders sought to inform its members about the specific roles they could undertake in civil defense. For instance, in addition to traditional female occupations like child-care and nursing, the FCDA announced it needed women to volunteer as shelter surveyors, rescue dispatchers, pharmacists, and fire-fighter instructors.[41] Civil defense therefore won the support of many of the established women’s clubs and organizations because it offered not only the opportunity to validate the worth of traditional woman’s work, but it also expanded the range of acceptable occupations for women.

Even after clubwomen joined the civil defense movement they still received advice and instruction from the national leaders and the various club periodicals. On occasion, a particular civil defense effort generated by women received recognition. One such instance resonated in the home protection program in Kentucky during the 1950s. Led by Kentucky native Johanna Griffin, women of the state organized a “Civil Defense Week” in which they urged housewives to stock their kitchens like “Grandma’s pantry,” sold survival kits for the home and car, and coordinated a citywide blackout in Frankfort in order to practice civil defense procedures. Following the conclusion of the training exercises women continued their efforts to boost public interest in civil defense by sponsoring radio advertisements highlighting the importance of home preparation.[42] By publicizing successful civil defense campaigns like the one in Kentucky, women’s club leaders hoped to demonstrate how organization and dedication could in fact produce positive results.

One of the most noticeable ways clubwomen made their presence known in the civil defense movement was through public displays and traveling exhibits. Local and national clubs often designed civil defense booths at state fairs in order to educate the general public. In North Carolina for instance, women’s organizations prepared civil defense exhibits for the state fair in 1955 and eight county fairs in 1956.[43] Clubwomen also participated in great numbers in the FCDA’s ambitious mobile campaign to “inform the public of grave danger and the need for civil defense for protection.”[44] The massive transportable exhibit (consisting of a convoy of trailer trucks), named “Alert America,” included scenes depicting the power of nuclear weapons, FCDA motion pictures and pamphlets, and examples of “how these threats to American ideals can be met by effective civil defense.” Unveiled in Norfolk, Virginia on December 7, 1951, “Alert America” traveled to New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Phoenix en route to a six-month tour aimed at covering every state of the union.[45] Women, in addition to staffing the exhibit when it arrived in their community, also had the responsibility of being a “saleswoman” in order to convince family, friends, and neighbors to see and learn the lessons taught in “Alert America.”[46]

Throughout the 1950s the FCDA sponsored national events and programs, such as “Alert America,” in an attempt to educate the public about the dangers of nuclear war and combat the prevailing opinion that civil defense was an ineffective enterprise. Hoping to convince people of the necessity of home protection, the FCDA instituted the civil defense training exercise, “Operation Alert,” in 1954. The drill, which took place on the same day and time in heavily populated American cities like Boston and New York, simulated a nuclear attack. Civil defense volunteers practiced their roles as wardens, rescue workers, and communication personnel. Meant to demonstrate the possible devastation of nuclear war, “Operation Alert” forced all people, even skeptics of civil defense, to participate in the drill. Upon hearing an air-raid warning signal, citizens living in “target” areas (urban areas) had to take cover for fifteen minutes in order to avoid a hefty fine.[47] Claiming that “people must know how to act and must be confident” if faced with an enemy attack, Eisenhower urged all federal employees to follow his lead in not only supporting “Operation Alert,” but in participating in the test as well.[48]

Although not specifically aimed at women, “Operation Alert” invariably attracted both female support and criticism. Female civil defense workers used the event as an opportunity to practice their disaster survival training. But rather unexpectedly, another group of women garnered the spotlight when they launched public demonstrations against the mandatory civil defense exercise. Arguing “peace is the only defense against nuclear war,” hundreds of women from New York refused to participate in “Operation Alert.” With each passing year (the government administered the test on a yearly basis between 1954 and 1961) the number of women protesting civil defense testing in New York and across the country increased. Ironically, both the female participants in the annual test and those who opposed it used the same rationale to justify their uncharacteristically public role as women: as females they had the maternal responsibility to protect their families.[49] In this sense, civil defense acted as a propelling force for legitimizing women’s activism during the decade.

Throughout the 1950s individual women, and most especially women’s clubs, actively participated in civil defense. However, the restructuring of the nation’s civil defense program in 1961, instigated by President Kennedy, ended the close alliance between woman’s organizations and the FCDA. No longer included as advisors and administrators for federal civil defense, women found themselves without the political power they had wielded during the previous decade.[50] Unhappy with the snub by Kennedy and the insinuation that women did not belong in positions of power, a few individuals expressed their dissatisfaction. For instance, Mrs. Norton H. Pearl of Battle Creek, Michigan reasoned that since women constituted approximately sixty-four million of the adult population of the United States (in 1961), their numbers alone should justify women’s involvement in the effort. She went on to declare that, “when you give women a cause, you start something. Civil defense is a Woman’s Cause.”[51] Despite the public outcry voiced by some female civil defense workers, women’s participation in home protection continued to decline during the 1960s. Without the dynamic leadership of women like Howard and Fuller, in addition to the absence of government backing for the involvement of women’s clubs, females no longer had the opportunity to make significant contributions to civil defense.

Although no records documenting the precise number of women who volunteered for civil defense service exist, the fact that the government recruited females and that many women did participate in the program proves noteworthy. Desperate for volunteers to protect the home and the nation in the case of a nuclear attack, the FCDA relied upon women to make civil defense a success. Despite an effort to maintain traditional gender roles, the FCDA appointed women to federal posts and facilitated an otherwise unlikely public role for females who volunteered for jobs such as spotters and block wardens. Aware that involvement in civil defense could help women escape the confinements of the domestic sphere, influential women’s clubs and organizations encouraged its members to join the campaign. All things considered, the link between women and civil defense during the 1950s suggests that the decade often touted as an idle period for women’s activism might better be described as the beginning of the advancement of women’s rights in America.

Research by Kathleen Johnson
Volunteer for the Cold War Museum

For additional information click here.


1 Harry S. Truman, “Statement by the President Upon Signing the Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950,” Public Papers of the President (Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 1965), 26-27.

2 Paul Boyer, By the Bomb’s Early Light (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985), 322.

3 Federal Civil Defense Administration, “Can Americans Take It?,” The Civil Defense Alert April 1951: 4.

4 Richard Gerstell, How to Survive an Atomic Bomb (Washington, D.C.: Combat Forces Press, 1950), 135.

5 Federal Civil Defense Administration, “Conference Calls CD Vital to Preparedness,” The Civil Defense Alert June 1951: 3.

6 Federal Civil Defense Administration, This is Civil Defense: The Official U.S. Government Booklet (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1951), 10-11.

7 In 1951, for instance, Caldwell requested $535 million for civil defense, but Congress only appropriated $65 million. See “Civil Defense: Bomb Shelters Away,” Time September 3, 1951: 22.

8 Federal Civil Defense Administration, “Women Expected to Form Major Part of CD Force,” The Civil Defense Alert April 1952: 2.

9 Gerstell, How to Survive, 121.

10 Gerstell, How to Survive, 134.

11 Laura McEnaney, Civil Defense Begins at Home: Militarization Meets Everyday Life in the Fifties (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), 109.

12 Federal Civil Defense Administration, Women in Civil Defense. (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1952), 4-6; See page 20 of the appendix for government sponsored examples of “good civil defense housekeeping.

13 McEnaney, Begins at Home, 104-105; Public Shelter: Civil Defense Archive by Jayne Loader, [October 12, 2002].

14 JoAnne Brown, “’A Is for Atom, B Is for Bomb’: Civil Defense in American Public Education, 1948-1963” The Journal of American History 75 (June 1988): 74; Margot A. Henriksen, Dr. Strangelove’s America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 108; See figure 3 on page 21 of the appendix for a representative Bert the Turtle cartoon.

15 McEnaney, Begins at Home, 104.

16 McEnaney, Begins at Home, 108.

17 Lenoire Hailparn, “The Home Front is the Target,” Independent Woman November 1952: 68; Lenoire Hailparn, “Them Time is Now,” Independent Woman July 1953: 226.

18 Federal Civil Defense Administration, This is Civil Defense, 21.

19 Federal Civil Defense Administration, The Warden Service (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1951), 1-6,20.

20 Federal Civil Defense Administration, Civil Defense Glossary (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1956), 4.

21 Katherine G. Howard, With My Shoes Off (New York: Vantage Press, 1997),241; McEnaney, Begins at Home, 88.

22 Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Memorandum to Federal Agencies Directing Participation in a National Civil Defense Exercise,” Public Papers of the President (Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 1961), 519.

23 Civil Defense: The Eisenhower Administration. [November 27, 2002].

24 Guy Oakes, The Imaginary War, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 132.

25 Oakes, Imaginary War, 108-109.

26 Federal Civil Defense Administration, A Family Action: Home Protection Exercises (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1955), 32.

27 Katherine G. Howard, “The Better Half of Civil Defense,” National Business Woman February 1957: 8-9.

28 Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Remarks at the Conference of the National Women’s Advisory Committee on Civil Defense,” Public Papers of the President (Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 1960), 961.

29 Howard, Shoes Off, 294.

30 Howard, “Better Half,” 8-9.

31 Howard, Shoes Off, 305-306, 315-316.

32 Howard, Shoes Off, 321.

33 Dee Garrison, “Our Skirts Gave Them Courage,” in Joanne Meyerowitz ed., Not June Cleaver: Women and Gender in Postwar America, (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994), 204.

34 Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound! American Families in the Cold War Era (New York: Basic Books, 1988), 104.

35 Federal Civil Defense Administration, “Nine Women Named to Regional Offices,” The Civil Defense Alert January 1952: 3.

36 Federal Civil Defense Administration, “Club Women Are Pledged to Aid in Civil Defense,” The Civil Defense Alert April 1952: 3.

37 McEnaney, Begins at Home, 107.

38 Jeanette Williams, “National Security Needs You,” National Business Woman December 1957: 9-10; “Operation You,” National Business Woman November 1958: 10-11.

39 Clara A. Longstreth, “Why a Civil Defense Program?,” Independent Woman, December 1950: 375-376.

40 McEnaney, Begins at Home, 8.

41 Federal Civil Defense Administration, “Women Expected,” 2.

42 Kentucky CD,“ National Business Woman January 1957: 32.

43 North Carolina Civil Defense Progress Report, 1953-1954, (North Carolina Council of Civil Defense: January 1,1953 - January 1, 1955), 9.

44 Federal Civil Defense Agency, “Council Asks for ’Alert America,’” The Civil Defense Alert June 1951: 1.

45 Federal Civil Defense Administration, “Capital Show Launches ’Alert America’ Tours,” The Civil Defense Alert January 1952: 1; 3; See figures 4 and 5 on page 21 of the appendix for government materiel pertaining to the “Alert America” tour.

46 Federal Civil Defense Administration, “Women Expected,” 2.

47 In New York State, citizens refusing to participate in “Operation Alert” faced up to one year in prison and a fine of $100. See Operation Alert: The American Experience, [September 21, 2002].

48 Eisenhower, “Memorandum to Federal Agencies,” 519.

49 Garrison, “Our Skirts Gave Them Courage,” 201-206; Operation Alert.

50 McEnaney, Begins at Home, 120-121.

51 Public Shelter.

For additional information click here.

Back to Top

Note: Links to external sites will open in new browser windows and are not endorsed by The Cold War Museum.

The Cold War Museum

P.O. Box 861526

(7142 Lineweaver Road)

Vint Hill, VA 20187

(540) 341-2008