There's some wonderful art online representing the Humane Education movement of the late-19th and early-20th centuries entitled Be Kind: A Visual History of Humane Education.
Detail from Latham Foundation brochure, 1930s. Featuring artwork by John and Miriam Lemos. Collection of The Latham Foundation.
Humane Education, broadly defined, is about teaching the values and virtues of compassion for all species with whom we share the planet. This exhibition focuses on the visual culture used in Humane Education between the years 1880-1945, but Humane Education existed before these dates and continues to exist in the 21st century.
Humane Education has taken different forms depending upon the historical period, geographical location, and other socio-political factors. As Bernard Unti and Bill DeRosa (2003) have pointed out, support for Humane Education has fluctuated throughout its history.
Be Kind to Animals Week® poster. Featuring artwork by H. Armstrong Roberts. 1930s. Collection of Robert Penney.
Art and visual culture have been–and, indeed, continue to be–a very important part of campaigns advocating for better treatment of all species. Perhaps one of the earliest examples of art being used in the service of Humane Education was William Hogarth’s Four Stages of Cruelty.
Children of the tenderest age, even before they can articulate, may be taught, through the simple agency of pictures, to admire and appreciate living creatures. - Henry Bergh, Founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
Photographic technology was also an important aspect of Humane Education. During the time period that this exhibition focuses on, the camera was increasingly promoted as a visual technology that could provide a safe and humane way for children to interact with animals.
Print emphasizing “hunting with the camera.” Published by the American Humane Education Society, c.1921. Collection of Robert Penney.
Proponents of Humane Education in the late 19th century frequently argued that it would greatly decrease crime and fix social problems. The preface to A Mother’s Lessons on Kindness to Animals, for example, notes that “habits of cruelty in the young, if not checked in time, are very dangerous, and lead to many other sins. They harden the heart against every right and proper feeling. Children who are cruel to animals will soon be cruel to their parents, brothers, and sisters; as every act of cruelty increases the will and the power to repeat it, until it becomes a rooted and settled principle…” In other words, the reach of Humane Education was thought to extend in to several areas of modern life. Because of this, strong connections existed between the Humane Education movement and other social movements. For example, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and advocates for Humane Education often found common ground. Further, many of the leaders of the Humane Education movement felt moved to correct injustices they saw in the world in a broad sense. George T. Angell, founder of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) and the American Humane Education Society (AHES), was determined to “plead for the wronged and oppressed, whether they walked on two legs or four.”
Cartoon published in the July 1932 issue of Our Dumb Animals. Collection of MSPCA Angell.
“Be Kind: A Visual History of Humane Education, 1880-1945″ is divided in to a number of different sections.
- American Humane Education Society
- Bands of Mercy
- Be Kind to Animals Week® and Humane Sunday
- Books, Pamphlets, and Other Publications
- Buttons, Badges, and Medals
- Displays and Exhibits
- Essay and Poster Competitions
- Film and Lantern Slides
- Miss B’Kind Club
Detail of Latham Foundation brochure, 1930s, featuring poster art by Dorothy J. Brown. Collection of The Latham Foundation.
Make sure you check out the Be Kind: A Visual History of Humane Education exhibition.
- Published: 11 July 2012
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