“Little Wars: a game for boys from twelve years of age to one hundred and fifty and for that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys’ games and books” is the long and unusual title of H.G. Wells famous book that started modern war gaming back in 1913.
H.G. Wells had an eye for intelligent girls or ladies, such as Amber Reeves, a pioneering feminist Socialist student at Cambridge University https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amber_Reeves with whom Wells had a child outside marriage in 1909. Wells called Amber “Dusa”, a shortened form of his pet name (!) for her of Medusa.
Wells proved himself to be more than just the father of modern war gaming!
The years before Floor Games (1911), an account of floor games with his two sons, led onto the “Sandgate Cannonade” of Little Wars (1913) were certainly busy ones for Wells, personally and professionally.
I wonder if this Xavier Sager designed Strategie / Strategy postcard girl is “the sort of intelligent girl who likes boys games and books” that Wells had in mind? It’s certainly a nice field gun shooting at what looks like tiny men or toy soldiers.
I came across this curious “Little Wars” style postcard online attached to a completely unrelated foreign language medical website about heart disease.
I was puzzled – Any reason why it was on a medical website?
It’s an interesting little card from somewhere in the early 1900s through to WW1. Look carefully and you will see that the ammunition for her toy gun is hearts!
What Strategy is it that she proposes?
Why the Gulliver Lilliputian style differences in size between giant lady and puny male victims?
Are these her tiny fallen lovers?
Is she a Femme Fatale figure? A Dusa or mythical fate spinner, a fatal woman?
What of the tiny fallen or wounded figures on the floor, including one in uniform, cursing or crying out? He must have a very revealing view of Mademoiselle “Strategie”.
What would the spirited Amber Reeves make of it all?
Strategy was produced as a comic or satirical postcard by Xavier Sager. Sager was a European postcard artist whom I had not heard of before but a quick internet search reveals him to have been most prolific.
However little appears online or in print about Sager’s life. Xavier Sager may have been born in Austria in 1870 or 1881 and died in the USA in 1930. He mostly illustrated Paris life in the first few years of the 1900s. You can see many of his designs here and on Pinterest:
French website: http://wilfrid-sager.blogg.org
Sager’s image reminds me of this curious Gibson Girls comic drawing by American artist Charles Dana Gibson entitled “The Weaker Sex” (1903).
Xavier Sager reputedly produced over 3000 designs of what in America would later be called pin ups, nose cone art and far more relaxed and revealing than the fashionable Gibson Girls of America at the time.
These Sager postcards are much more similar in cheeky style to the Howard Chandler Christy girls of WW1 American forces recruiting.
Many of the military ones seem focussed on cheeky, erotic or patriotic subjects such as flags, national songs, uniforms and female company for Allied soldiers including the Americans after their 1917 entry into WW1. They must have sold like hot cakes or donuts to the American doughboys.
This post is for Marvin, a talented painter of WW1 miniatures!
These images sit interestingly alongside the fantastical and unrealistic images of women or girl soldiers that Marvin of the Suburban Militarism blog has been researching, alongside the real female soldiers and support services https://suburbanmilitarism.wordpress.com/2017/04/26/girl-soldier/
There are plenty of Xavier Sager’s collectable vintage postcard images for sale online or viewable on Pinterest, if you want to look up his work any further, along with websites below.
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 26 August 2018
B.P.S. Blog Post Script
Mademoiselle Strategie with her ammunition of hearts may well be the female version of the man collecting a Jar of Hearts (conquests, hopefully, not real human organs) in Christina Perri’s recent song Jar of Hearts, better heard in the remix of the time travelling Postmodern Jukebox, court musicians to the Duke of Tradgardland. Enjoy!
5 thoughts on ““That more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys’ games and books””
Interesting stuff Mark. Perhaps Ms Strategy is making an early “Make Love not War” statement with her Jar of Hearts (good song by the way), threatening what looks like some Military personnel and Munition manufacturers..?
Killing off the capitalist top hatted Arms manufacturers? There you are right into George Bernard Shaw theatre territory of Major Barbara (trying to reform a shameless and charming arms manufacturer) and Arms and The Man. Similar period of Dreadnought and Krupp Arms Races to H.G. Wells’ socially aware and satirical books.
Alternatively I fear we may all be reading too much into this cheeky and titillating postcard but its meaning appears quite satirical or elusive. Suggestive of many things. Is the “strategy” all part of those so-called feminine wiles?
Many thanks for the nod in my direction on your fabulous post, Mark! One that’s right up my street, too.
One of the most pleasing aspects about the postcard images is the artistry. I can see why they are much sort after by collectors. Sager’s drawings are terrific, even if some of the gender attitudes behind it are astonishing today – “I wish I was a man, I’d join the Navy”!
Just as I posted about Ellam’s Soldier Girls postcards, I think these Sager recruitment postcards contain unintentionally within them the idea of the possibility of women serving in the Marines or Navy. That idea gets out there and when it does, it becomes a little less absurd as a result?
The About Cards blog was a great find too. I’ll have to explore more closely but I already found a great post on “WWI Patriotic Women” by artist Arthur Butcher. Great artworks and, in the Soldier Girls tradition, a faithful observation of national uniforms including – very appropriately for my post on “Heroic Female Soldiers of Serbia” – a Serbian female soldier in a traditional šajkača hat. Also a French lady in a 1914-era infantry red kepi and an Italian Bersaglieri.
I thought this would interest you. Postcard artist Arthur Butchur is so similar to the subjects of Xavier Sager, even to the bilingual captions, it is quite uncanny. Piracy or Commercial necessity of war I expect. Thanks for the introduction to him. Have a look through more Sager images of women in male uniform and you will see many parallels.
The USA Christy Girls recruiting posters are curiously playful too – is it all about (not) being manly enough to serve (an insidious and belittling theme of many recruiting posters? What if a feisty girl turned up at the Marines recruiting station? (Sorry that’s the plot of Private Benjamin). Thankfully as you say, women’s temporary service in the women’s armed forces in WW1 broke the glass ceiling for the future and sped the vote being granted.
Hang on, is it FEMbruary already?
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Yes, I have a feeling we should be holding these things back for next year!