Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases!i

Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases (Art.IWM PST 14154) whole: the image is positioned in the centre. The title and text are separate and placed in the upper quarter and lower
quarter, in black and in orange. Further text is separate and placed along the bottom edge, in white, set against an orange background. The
image, title and main text are set against a grey background.
image: a full-length depiction of a woman, standing in an office. She expels a... Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

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During the Blitz of World War II in Great Britain, a major propaganda that took place was regarding health. As the war was progressing forward, health was recognized as a major influence on the war. Not only in Britain, but all over the world. It was so important for individuals to be healthy, and non-contagious during the war. During WWII, the official health propaganda had succeeded to persuade people to be much more careful, than it did during WWI, where there was less coordination of health regulations, as it was still in its early stages. The health campaigns that took place during WWII focused toward wartime emergency. Individuals were to be fit and healthy in order to fight the war, work in the industries, cope with air raids, and endure other hardships. The Ministry of Health promoted posters and campaigns all over Britain, to achieve mass persuasion to its citizens, of the importance of not spreading germs.

Of its many effects, absence from work was one of the major impacts bad health had on the war. It was prominent that wartime citizens were not to be absent from work, which would cause a lot of discrepancies in the war, with shortage of people and how to go about the procedures. That’s why, encouragement of keeping your germs to yourself was the slogan in the home, and the workplace. Furthermore, influenza and other diseases were rapidly passing. Therefore, it was the approach from the Ministry of Health to try and set some regulations through propaganda using these posters to get people to be more aware of their health and their surroundings.

This poster, “Coughs And Sneezes Spread Diseases”, was created by Henry Mayo Bateman. Bateman was a humorist and a cartoonist during the war in England. From an early age, he was always into drawing funny cartoons and telling of stories. Eventually, he created this poster for the Ministry of Health. This poster reads, “Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases…Trap your germs by using your handkerchief”. It’s interesting to note that there is a working woman who is sneezing in the workplace, around others who seem to find it disgusting and disrespectful. She does not have any kind of handkerchief with her, and she is sneezing openly, toward the people around her. There are two other women and one man who all look at her very angrily, as if they did not want to be near her at all.

The poster was created on October 22, 1942, According so some sources, Bateman had created four posters in total to encourage people to trap their germs using handkerchiefs. This poster has multiple targeted audiences I would say. First off, making the woman the prime example to depict how not to spread germs, already targets women in the workplace and the home. The propaganda depicted woman making more of these ignorant mistakes, which would harm others around them. Secondly, I would say that the audience that is targeted is the rest of Britain. The poster itself is a warning to all citizens of Britain, whether they were in the workplace, fighting the war, or even staying home. Everyone had to abide by these propaganda rules that were being instilled. The need for this poster was very important, because it allowed for awareness amongst the people of Britain. The government had become very concerned about the people’s health because it would ultimately affect the war in several ways. Overall, I think this poster would have been effective. I say this because it directly targets people in all kinds of settings, while it gives a direct warning, and how to go about it. Also, using these posters in public places such as health centers, pharmacies, NHS outlet, and surgery rooms allowed for awareness in germ-filled areas the most. Government intervention in health regulations was a notable and successful act in mass persuasion to call for awareness.




1 Comment

  1. Do you think the poster of the women sneezing and therefore spreading a cold can be connected to the fears of women more generally? For example, there were also posters about women spreading VD and women spreading information? Why do you think women were often the subject / scapegoat of such propaganda campaigns.

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