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The Wife Who Squandered The Electricity

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    United Kingdom (published)

  • Date:

    1943 (published)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Bateman, Henry Mayo, born 1887 - died 1970 (designer)
    Ministry of Fuel and Power (issued by)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Colour offset lithograph

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Ogilvy Benson & Mather Ltd

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case Y, shelf 62, box B

In Britain, reducing domestic fuel consumption was an essential part of the war effort between 1939 and 1945. This poster was one of a series depicting the shame and guilt of family characters (both male and female) caught squandering the nation's precious resources at home. The designer, Henry Bateman, who originally made his name through the popular journals The Tatler, The Sketch and The Bystander, specialised in the depiction of angry outrage caused by anti-social or unthinking behaviour.

Physical description

'The Wife Who Squandered The Electricity'; Poster showing a woman sitting, drying her nail varnish, in front of an electric fire, which is radiating heat, she looks guiltily around as her husband frowns down at her. Text in red and black reads 'The Wife Who Squandered Electricity/ Save Fuel/ To Make Munitions/ For Battle.

Place of Origin

United Kingdom (published)


1943 (published)


Bateman, Henry Mayo, born 1887 - died 1970 (designer)
Ministry of Fuel and Power (issued by)

Materials and Techniques

Colour offset lithograph

Marks and inscriptions

Issued By The Ministry of Fuel and Power.
Distributor's identification; bottom left corner; lithography

Ministry of Fuel and Power
Stamp; bottom right corner

HM Bateman
Signature; within the image; lithography


Height: 75 cm sheet, Width: 49.5 cm sheet

Object history note

Issued by The Ministry of Fuel and Power

Historical context note

Official poster campaigns targeted at the civilian population were a common feature of life in Britain during the Second World War. Many of the messages had a resonance that was to influence the habits of British home owners well into the second half of the century.

In this example, The Ministry of Fuel and Power amplifies its call for careful use of power supplies with a witty but poignant illustration of domestic 'bad form'. It was impractical to ration domestic gas and electricity, so it became vital to encourage the habit of voluntary restraint and self-regulation. The shame people on 'The Home Front' ought to feel when precious electricity was wasted is captured in Bateman's scene of a conscientious husband seeing his spouse using an electric fire to dry her nail varnish. The fire has been fitted into a tiled bedroom chimney-piece in an up-to-date Moderne style.

[Kevin Edge, 'British Design at Home', p.130]

Descriptive line

'The Wife Who Squandered The Electricity. Save Fuel to Make Munitions for Battle'; Poster issued by the Ministry of Fuel and Power during the Second World War; Colour offset lithograph; Signed; Design by Henry Mayo Bateman; Great Britain; 1943.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Summary Catalogue of British Posters to 1988 in the Victoria & Albert Museum in the Department of Design, Prints & Drawing. Emmett Publishing, 1990. 129 p. ISBN: 1 869934 12 1

Production Note

Attribution note: The poster was issued by the Ministry of Food and Power during World War II
Reason For Production: Commission


Colour offset lithography

Subjects depicted

Woman; Men; Domestic interiors; Propaganda; Electric fire; Electricity


ELISE; Propaganda; Caricatures & Cartoons; Household objects; Prints; Posters

Production Type

Mass produced


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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