Didactic Dramas: Antiwar Plays of the 1930s
The interwar peace movement was arguably the largest mass movement of the 1920s and 1930s, a mobilization often overlooked in the wake of the broad popular consensus that ultimately supported the U.S. involvement in World War II. The destruction wrought in World War I (known in the 1920s and 1930s as the "Great War") and the cynical nationalist politics of the Versailles Treaty had left Americans disillusioned with the Wilsonian crusade to save the world for democracy. The antiwar movement drew on many tactics honed in earlier suffrage campaigns, including the use of pageants and plays. Circulated by the New Deal-sponsored Federal Theatre Project (FTP), these play synopses suggested the range and diversity of antiwar sentiment in the 1930s. The FTP vetted hundreds of scripts and prepared lists of plays for the use of community theaters. Antiwar dramas were among the most popular, with themes of religious pacifism, moral motherhood, and condemnation of war profiteering.