Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Analysis of Popular Culture Part Two
Sherry Schirmer
HI 325: The U.S. in War and Peace, 1914-1945
Time Frame:
Two 30 minute segments from two 75 minute class sessions plus two weeks out-of-class work time to complete the paper.
Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12, PS

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

After a power point lecture characterizing women’s images in WWI posters [guided practice], students, working in teams, will be given packets of popular culture from WWI.  Each team will [1] identify characteristics of the pop culture artifacts in their team’s packet and [2] categorize, or group artifacts with shared characteristics.  Individuals will write a 3-5 page paper that [1] characterizes and categorizes their given pop culture artifacts; [2] cites a secondary history resource that supports their interpretation; and [3] correctly cites all sources according to Chicago style.


My students need practice in analytical thinking—particularly the analytical methods that historians use.  They also need practice in finding and using secondary sources and in using correct citation format.  Because pop culture materials engage them, this exercise will provide an avenue for teaching key knowledge objectives about WWI while giving them needed practice in research skills.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

This lesson plan addresses the following objectives of the Department of History at Avila University:

Recipients of the Bachelor of Arts in History will

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the effects of race, gender, class, ethnicity or religion on the experiences of ordinary and extraordinary people of the past using current historical theory and methodology.
  • Produce a well-written work of historical scholarship that analyzes primary documents, poses a historical question, provides historical context for the resulting evidence, and uses relevant secondary literature appropriately in a synthesis.

Missouri Standards

2. Continuity and change in the history of Missouri, the United States and the world

6. Relationships of the individual and groups to institutions and cultural traditions

7. The use of tools of social science inquiry (such as surveys, statistics, maps, documents)

Kansas Standards

Benchmark 1: The student uses a working knowledge and understanding of individuals, groups, ideas, developments, and turning points in the era of the emergence of the modern United States (1890-1930).

7. (A) analyzes how the home front was influenced by United States involvement in World War I (e.g., Food Administration, Espionage Act, Red Scare, influenza, Creel Committee).

Benchmark 5: The student engages in historical thinking skills.

1. (A) analyzes a theme in United States history to explain patterns of continuity and change over time.

2. (A) develops historical questions on a specific topic in United States history and analyzes the evidence in primary source documents to speculate on the answers.

3. (A) uses primary and secondary sources about an event in U.S. history to develop a credible interpretation of the event, evaluating on its meaning (e.g., uses provided primary and secondary sources to interpret a historical-based conclusion).

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • Susan R. Grayzel, Women and the First World War.  Harlow, U.K.:  Pearson Education Limited, 2002.
  • Linda Holtzman, Media Messages:  What Film, Television, and Popular Music Teach Us About Race, Class, Gender and Sexual Orientation.  Armonk, N.Y.:  M.E. Sharpe, 2000.

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • Mark Bryant, World War I in Cartoons.  London:  Grub Street, 2006
  • James Montgomery Flagg, et. al. American World War I Posters.  Mineola, N.Y.:  Dover Publications, 2003.
  • Liberty Memorial Museum, “The Lessons of Liberty:  Patriotism,” www.libertymemorialmuseum.org.
  • Walton Rawls, Wake Up America!  World War I and the American Poster.  New York:  Abbeville Press, 1988.
  • George J. Hecht, The War in Cartoons:  A History of the War in 100 Cartoons.  New York:  E.P. Dutton, 1919.
  • Jon Silkin, ed., The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry.  2nd ed.  New York:  Penguin Classics, 1997.
  • Marr Sound Archives, “The Voices and Music of WWI,” http://library.umkc.edu/spec-col/ww1/intro.htm 
  • John Laffin, World War I in Post-Cards.  Wren Park, 2001.
  • Advertisements in popular magazines of 1914-1919, reproduced by teacher from microform collections, Kansas City Public Library.

Technology Required:

computer cart for Power Point, cassette player, scanner.

Full description of activity or assignment.
  1. Teacher will provide guided practice in how to characterize and categorize popular culture artifacts by presenting a power point lecture.  The lecture will present Susan Grayzel’s categorization of women’s images in WWI propaganda posters, using reproductions of posters to illustrate the categories.  The teacher will collapse Grayzel’s categories into the following five categories of images:
    1. Women illustrate why men fight and what they fight for.
    2. Women illustrate why the enemy Kultur is brutal and must be defeated
    3. Women serve as a reward for enlisting or a punishment for “slacking.”
    4. Women sacrifice to compensate for men’s sacrifices.
    5. Women serve as heroic household managers.


  1. Working in teams of 3 students, teams will be given packets of American popular culture artifacts from the period 1914-1919.  In teams, students will identify salient characteristics of their given artifacts and group those characteristics in analytical categories that the team members define.  Teams will present their findings in the following class meeting.  Packets of artifacts will include:
    1. WWI propaganda posters [2 sets]
    2. Lyrics and sheet music covers of popular songs [2 sets]
    3. WWI poetry
    4. WWI era post cards
    5. WWI era [entertainment] cartoons
    6. WWI political cartoons
    7. Ads from popular magazines


  1. Working individually, each student will prepare a 3-5 page paper that describes the categorizations above, explains the historical context for those categories, supports the interpretive conclusion using at least one secondary source, synthesizes the information in a correctly cited and documented paper.  [See attached instructions and paper rubric.]

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:

The exercise will be deemed a success if it meets the following criteria:

  1. On a final exam, 100% of students will, with 75% accuracy, answer a question concerning how women’s images were used in WWI propaganda.
  2. On a final exam, 100% of students will, with 75% accuracy, answer a question based on students’ findings in the exercise.  {The question will be designed by the teacher and communicated to students via the final study guide.]
  3. On the assigned paper, 100% of students will meet 75% of the paper criteria [see attached rubrics] satisfactorily [at or above the 3 level].

Rubric by Sherry Schirmer (Word)