Both conservative and liberal Baby Boomers have romanticized the 1950s as an age of innocence - of pickup ball games and Howdy Doody, when mom stayed home and the economy boomed. But these nostalgic narratives obscure many other histories of postwar childhood, one of which has more in common with the war years and the sixties, when children were mobilized and politicized by the U.S. government, private corporations, and individual adults to fight the Cold War both at
home and abroad. Children battled communism in its various guises on television, in the movies, and in comic books; they practiced safety drills, joined civil preparedness groups, and helped to build and stock bomb shelters in the back yard. Children collected coins for UNICEF, exchanged art with
other children around the world, prepared for nuclear war through the Boy and Girl Scouts, raised funds for Radio Free Europe, sent clothing to refugee children, and donated books to restock the diminished library shelves of war torn Europe.
Rather than rationing and saving, American children were encouraged to spend and consume in order to maintain the engine of American prosperity. In these capacities, American children functioned as ambassadors, cultural diplomats, and representatives of the United States. Victoria Grieve examines this politicized childhood at the peak of the Cold War, and the many ways children and ideas about childhood were pressed into political service. Little Cold Warriors combines approaches from
childhood studies and diplomatic history to understand the cultural Cold War through the activities and experiences of young Americans.
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Victoria Grieve is Associate Professor at Utah State University and the author of The Federal Art Project and The Creation of Middlebrow Culture (University of Illinois Press, 2009). Her research spans childhood studies, visual culture, and cultural politics from the New Deal to the Cold War.
"Victoria Grieve is among a growing number of scholars who recognize that youthful political activism did not disappear between 1945 and 1960. Little Cold Warriors provides new insights into the continued politicization of childhood during the Cold War and is a must read for those interested in understanding twentieth-century childhoods and the broader contours of Cold War cultural politics."--Jennifer Helgren, author of American Girls and Global Responsibility: A New Relation to the World during the Early Cold War
"This important text moves American children of the 1950s out from under their school desks and places them where they belong: at the fore of the United States' ideological war against communism. From the very first page, Grieve challenges readers to look beyond a nostalgic, idealized vision of Baby Boomer childhood and instead and to recognize the ubiquitous politicization of children's culture. Drawing on sources from international children's art exchanges to the Lone Ranger, Grieve shows that American youth were taught the twin precepts of international friendship, and the patriotic necessity of American economic and political dominance."--Susan A. Miller, author of Growing Girls: The Natural Origins of Girls' Organizations in America
"Taking us beyond the iconic 'duck and cover' drills of the era, Grieve explores a range of youth- focused government and private initiatives that enrich our understanding of Cold War politics and the development of Post-World War II youth activism. Placing children and youth at the center of her story, she reveals the important roles they played as both powerful symbols and as important actors in American diplomacy and defense."--Rebecca de Schweinitz, author of If We Could Change the World: Young People and America's Long Struggle for Racial Equality
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