This brass kitchen mortar was exchanged as part of a metal collection for an iron mortar as an example of the possible ways of participating actively in the war and showing enthusiasm for it. When the First World War broke out, large sections of the Austro-Hungarian population were gripped by veritable euphoria. This enthusiasm was not shared by all sectors of society, however. It was strong in urban, bourgeois and intellectual circles, less so in the rural and working population.
The subject of this propaganda postcard of a soldier setting off for war and swearing to be faithful to his loved ones recalls the separation brought about by war. Millions of men were sent to the front and separated from their families and wives. The war marked an important break in many partnerships, families and friendships. The soldiers serving far from home found themselves in a completely new social environment with new superiors and comrades. They made new friendships and entered into new relationships.
During the "Gold for Iron” campaign, gold rings or jewellery donated to finance the war were exchanged for iron rings. The civilian population was called upon to play an active role in welfare and aid associations and to offer its services for the fatherland. Women and children collected clothes and blankets for the army and hospitals, and materials like wastepaper and iron for recycling. They knitted and sewed, and these "Liebesgaben” or charitable gifts were sent to the front to provide emotional encouragement to the troops.
For a long time, the imaginary dichotomy between the ‘masculine front’ and ‘feminine homeland’ made it possible to make subtle distinctions between the various fields women worked in during the First World War. Why should we look for them in the trenches when their place was on the home front anyway?
The notion of war as a specifically male activity was long ago dispelled by women’s and gender history. During the First World War, women were not only active in the war effort at home; they also served on the front as female auxiliaries and Rot-Kreuz-Schwestern [Red Cross nurses].
During the First World War, there was an unprecedented mobilization of the civilian population – and, above all, of women. Their work to support the war effort was not confined to the home; ever more women went to the front as military auxiliaries.
As the war drew on, ever more men were called up to serve. Now it was up to women to compensate for the lack of available workforce and replace the men who were at war.