Prostitution and disease go arm in arm

Place North & Central America: United States of America
Accession Number ARTV07530
Collection type Art
Measurement sheet: 26.8 x 20.4 cm [irregular]
Object type Poster
Physical description offset lithograph on paper
Maker Unknown
Social Hygiene Division
Place made United States of America
Date made c. 1918
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Item copyright: Copyright expired - public domain

Public Domain Mark This item is in the Public Domain


A United States First World War veneral disease prevention poster, presumably the tenth page torn from a book. The black and white illustration depicts death looming behind a prostitute. On the left is a pretty women, holding her kimono shut with her right hand. Her hair is up and tousled. Her left arm is hooked through the ghastly withered arm of a corpse-like man, invoking medieval depictions of youthful maidens contrasted with the skeletal figure of death. The title occupies the lower part of the poster, and is printed in black ink. The posters produced by the Social Hygiene Division were a breakthrough in preventive medicine - previous to the war, venereal diseases were rarely discussed, and there were limited medical resources in the United States for the treatment of those suffering from them. This was no. 10 in a series of veneral disease prevention posters. At the beginning of the twentieth century venereal disease was a prevalent concern for social health organizations. The social stigma attached to these diseases prevented most people from discussing or addressing means of treatment. In 1913, at a conference in New York, several organizations dedicated to fighting prostitution and venereal disease joined together to form the American Social Hygiene Association (ASHA). The association was established to stop the venereal disease epidemic by educating the public about sexually transmitted infections, working to break down the social stigma attached to VD, and encouraging high moral standards. ASHA's early worked focused on education and awareness efforts within the armed forces. ASHA worked with the US War Department during the First World War when VD occurrences surged among soldiers. Their efforts included educating soldiers about venereal diseases and their transmission and attempting to eliminate prostitution, which was believed to be the primary vehicle for VD transmission among the armed forces. Due to its contribution to the war effort, ASHA gained national attention and succeeded in creating public awareness of VD.

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