AUGUST 20, 1943
HYDE PARK, Thursday—I have been to a number of exhibitions at which there have been paintings and drawings done by men in the services. I do not know whether these men are all artists of some reputation, or whether they have been inspired to paint because of the new scenes which surround them. I have wondered, however, whether there might not be some way of stimulating the men in the armed forces to express through whatever medium appeals to them most, the thoughts and feelings which come to them during this war.
Most of the songs which are sent to me are written by civilians at home. The songs we remember from the last war were written by professional song writers or men in the services, and were picked up by these same men and sung so constantly that they became well known in the populations of many countries. Some young poets recorded their thoughts and feelings in unforgettable verse.
I would like to see the same thing brought about in this war. Perhaps, prizes could be given for the best pictures, poems, songs and stories written by the men in the armed forces. In the case of songs, I think we would have to add that the song must be sung by some group of men in the services, so that it becomes known as a popular song among them.
Perhaps these competitions should not be solely among the servicemen, we might include the servicewomen and even the defense workers. Thomas Hood once wrote "The Song of The Shirt." A man or woman today might write "The Song of the Riveter," or the welder. Someone might write the housewife's song, picturing the difficulties of wartime rationing, shopping and transportation. There might be put into verse or prose all the difficulties of farm life today. Whether the medium is prose or poetry, music or painting, there could be both humor or pathos in the descriptions.
One couple writes me that, while they are now devoting their time to working in a defense factory, they devoted much of their time last year to visiting labor organizations and giving readings of their own poetry. They were richly repaid in appreciation, but came out with less money than when they started their journey, which is not strictly a businesslike transaction.
If I had the skill, I would write the saga of my own shortcomings as they are presented to me daily through the mail and the press. It would make amusing reading because of its variety and the many contradictions.
Instead, I think someday I shall write a little essay on the accomplishment of women in this war, as compared with their achievements in the last. I think it would make a great many people proud to run over the record of the past year and to realize in how many ways women have contributed to our successful accomplishments, both on the homefront and in direct war work.