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The Woman with Woman's Digest, May 1951

THE WOMAN with WOMAN’S DIGEST (“What You Should Tell Your Child About the A-Bomb”)

Editor Kate Smith (presumably the same Kate Smith who gained fame for her rendition of the song "God Bless America") opened the May 1951 issue of The Woman with an editorial that quoted from a letter sent in by a concerned mother identified only as "Mrs. Jacoby." Mrs. Jacoby’s letter described her "trembling" young daughter retreating to a closet in their home one day to "wait…for the atom bomb.” The last quotation from the letter is a plea: "...isn’t there some way to keep this awful fear from our children?"

Ms. Smith took Mrs. Jacoby's dramatic question and used it as an excuse to produce an entire article on the topic of explaining the atomic bomb to kids. Ms. Smith asked a minister by the name of Alson J. Smith (author of "A Faith to Live By") to write the piece.

Rev. Smith’s article is noteworthy because it actually points out some of the absurdity of civil defense for children. Rev. Smith also admits that it is hard to know how the proliferation of atom-mania is impacting the "nervous systems" of children. However, he does quote from a test in which a class of 32 nine-year-old children was asked a series of questions to assess emotional health. One of the questions was to describe your greatest fear. According to Rev. Smith, 30 of the 32 children replied that "A," "H" or just "big" bombs represented their gravest worry.

Rev. Smith also cites in his article some of the parental complaints to the Chicago PTA stemming from atomic bomb drills at city schools. Increased bed wetting after drills is one common issue expressed by parents. But there are other behaviors that develop as a result of the drills that are interesting. Rev. Smith mentions "Karen, age six, (who) does not want to go to school anymore; she wants to stay at home and be with her parents when the bomb falls." And then there is "Jean, age eight, (who) reminds her mother every night that she must take her sweater to school the next day to 'cover her head’ in case a bomb falls; she will not go anywhere without the sweater."

Perhaps the most fascinating PTA complaint that Rev. Smith quotes from concerns a little girl who described a bomb drill thusly:

Gosh, we had a funny kind of fire-drill today. The principal yelled over the loud-speaker system that an atom bomb was falling and we should all go to study hall. When we got there he said that a bomb was coming right at our school and that we should all pull our sweaters over our heads and put our heads on the desks. Now what good would that do?

Rev. Smith concludes his piece with six "things that parents should do to allay fear of atomic bombings":
The Woman with Woman's Digest, May 1951

1.) Help the children bring their fears out into the open.

2.) Show them the atom can be a power for good and that there is something they and their parents can do to make it such a power.

3.) Let them know that the unity of the family is not going to be broken no matter what happens.

4.) Do not make a fetish of the atom bomb; make the simple precautions as natural and unobtrusive as possible, and always emphasize the fact that they are for an exceedingly unlikely eventuality.

5.) Have faith and confidence in God, be tranquil and calm. Point out that "This is our Father’s world." Read the Bible together, pray together. Calmness, like fear, is highly communicable.

6.) Work (and enlist the children so far as possible) for understanding among nations, peace and a better world.

THE WOMAN with WOMAN’S DIGEST (“What You Should Tell Your Child About the A-Bomb”)
By Alson J. Smith
May 1951

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