Far from the devastation wrought by World War I in faraway Europe, women’s hands were filled with something important in wartime – the production and preservation of food.
Lead designer – Roberta Keith Howe of Upland – assembled the first group of 35 women on August 21 in classes at Chaffee.
The next day, “Society’s Women Do Their Part” was the headline of the Los Angeles Times, describing their motivations. The Sun wrote on August 22 that they were there “to do their part towards concretely maintaining the nation’s food supply”.
Under the guidance of local science teachers at Chaffey High, on the first day the women learned to canning fruits and vegetables, supplementing with more than 40 liters of discarded produce from local farms. By October, they had produced 610 pints of jams and jellies, preserved fruits and vegetables, and 250 pounds of dried apples, peaches, plums, and prunes.
“While these numbers don’t look like much on paper, they represent a great deal of good and faithful work,” Howe said in The Times on October 7.
“In many cases, the women actually went to the orchards and picked the fruit themselves. In each case we were only eating the fruit that otherwise would have been lost.”
Howe arranged for women from Upland and Ontario to meet two mornings a week in Chaffee that summer to produce canned food for military or domestic use. When classes resumed in high school, the women were asked to continue canning in their homes using the skills learned.
While it’s unlikely that this preserved food will ever be shipped to Europe, Howe said that if the military can’t use it, it will be used “for charitable purposes here in Upland and we mean to make sure they really go to those in need,” Howe told The Times on October 7. Don’t really fatten our tables.”
This movement arose out of a local front program called the National Women’s Defense Council that urged civilians in every town to do their part. In Uppland, the city was organized into 13 districts to support the action, each with an appointed captain and two lieutenants.
The work was motivated by the fact that food was very scarce after years of war in Europe. The United States found itself providing food for the military and civilians there.
Charles J. Booth, head of agriculture at Chaffee, spoke to the women as the work began and “made it clear that we must think from a global perspective, and that what is lost in Upland today will unfortunately be wanted in another part of the world tomorrow,” the Upland News reported on 23 August. Little bodies will starve if we don’t do our part.
Howe’s group also visited local homes, speaking with women about making donations of sugar and canning cans for this effort as well as emphasizing the need for food preservation, the news reported on July 11, 1918.This came in handy in mid-1918 with a Federal Food Administration announcement that called on Americans to sharply reduce domestic use of wheat, much needed in Europe. Each household was required to have no more than a 30-day supply of flour on hand. Chefs were often asked to substitute wheat products for potatoes, rice, or other vegetables, the Pomona Bulletin reported on April 14, 1918.
While the need for community canning was reduced with the end of the fighting in Europe in November 1918, homes in Upland and elsewhere were required to continue preserving their food for several months afterward due to food shortages around the world.
The 11th Annual Cucamonga Classic Car Show will be held by the Route 66 Inland Empire-California organization on June 25th at Sycamore Inn, 8318 Foothill Blvd., Rancho Cucamonga.
The auto show runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and proceeds benefit from a garage restoration at the nearby Historic Cucamonga Service Station.
Vehicle registration costs $45 at www.route66ieca.org.
Joe Blackstock writes on the history of the Inland Empire. He can be reached at [email protected] or Twitter @JoeBlackstock. Check out some of our previous Inland Empire Stories columns on Facebook at www.facebook.com/IEHistory.