Girls and Boys in the Finnish Voluntary Defence Movement
In the 1920s and 1930s, Civil Guards held a dominant position in
Finnish society. The organisation was established in 1917 and represented
the winners of the Civil War of 1918.
 The group organised their own patriotic women’s association-
Lotta Svärd. Originally they were auxiliaries to the Civil Guards
and their main task was “to second the Civil Guards in protecting
the home and fatherland.”  The future of these organisations was considered
important, which is why the parent organisation established two
juvenile organisations – the Civil Guard for Boys and Little Lottas.
In this article I will study the role of the juvenile organisations
within the Finnish Voluntary Defence Movement.
In the post-civil war situation, when the voluntary defence movement
was born, a common objective was to build a new kind of Finnish
nation and a new type of society. One of the main arguments in this
“defence-orientated thinking” was the crucial role of the home and
the nuclear family at the heart of society, in which individuals
would become patriotic and upstandingcitizens.  This kind of thinking was neither
new nor specifically Finnish. In nationalistic thinking, the common
perception of a nation has been constructed upon the idea of a heterosexual
family, a nuclear unit of the state and a place where new citizens
were brought up.  In comparison to “national awakening”
at the end of the nineteenth century, the nuclear family thinking
of the 1920’s and 1930’s was more patriotic. It was also important
to convince the majority of Finns of its salience. The voluntary
defence organisations were instrumental in this process.
The Civil Guards were portrayed as forming one big home and an
“extended family” that represented the whole of Finnish society.
The defence organisations wanted to represent a nation in miniature.
Their ideology was rooted in a nationalistic and heterosexual family
ideal. Consequently, their recruitment was family based.By the beginning
of the 1930s, new youth organisations for boys and girls (aged between
8 to16) had emerged. Now, there was an organisation for each member
of the family under the umbrella of the Civil Guards. This ideology
materialised because very often all members of a nuclear family
as well as a network of extended relatives, joined these organisations.  This segregation of the voluntary defence movement
along gender and generational lines will be referred to in this
article as a defence family.
as in all western countries, the length of adolescence had extended
towards the end of the nineteenth century, thus forming a specific
phase of life. 
An example of this development was the foundation of numerous youth
organisations in the 1920’s.
 The juvenile organisations of the defence movement- theCivil
Guard for Boys (Suojeluskuntapojat) and Little Lottas (Pikkulotat)-
were among the most visible. They played an important role in the
lives of tens of thousands of Finnish children in the 1930’s and
1940’s. Their ideology was strongly intertwined with their respective
adult organisations. The activities of the juvenile organisations
were supported by parents, relatives, teachers and indeed by the
whole of the nationalistic and bourgeois sections of Finnish society..
The children also perceived the overt militarism and nationalism
as being fashionable.. Similar trends were evident across Europe
in the 1930’s. >
In more specific terms, it is important to investigate the role
of the youth organisations inside this construction of a defence
family. Were they merely miniature copies of the adult organisations,
or did they represent something new and different? After the youth
organisations of the Civil Guards were founded, two different generations
became involved in the voluntary defence movement. In addition,
the youthful tendencies inside the defence family were strongly
gendered. Feminist scholars have argued that the use of the family
metaphor naturalizes power relations and gender hierarchies, leading
to the subordination of women to men and children to adults in a
nation.  Moreover,
the meaning of adolescence is generally perceived as gendered, with
boys and girls being assigned different roles. Furthermore, the
concept of “youth” also held deep cultural meaning, which was seen
as an important symbolic resource during the early years of the
Finnish nation. 
In this article my aim is to discuss how gender was constructed
in the youth organisations. I will also explore questions of power
between different generations in the defence family.
Sport, Action and the Training of Soldiers
The youth organisations in Finland
were introduced soon after the formation of the Lotta Svärd. A
Civil Guard organisation for boys had already been established at
the turn of 1920’s, but the original plan to train the boys as little
soldiers did not last. During this phase, the boys in the so-called
squirrel companies (oravakomppaniat) were given military education
identical to the adult Civil Guards.
 In 1928, the youth organisation officially received a
new orientation, in which various sporting activities were given
a key role. The idea was that with the help of exercise and games
boys would acquire skills useful for soldiering. Military education
remained the main objective, but the means were geared more to the
interests of the young boys.
Although physical activity formed an essential part of the youth
organisation, it was also important to mould them into “proper citizens”.
The goal was to make Finnish boys physically strong, decent and
dutiful. The ideal upbringing projected by the voluntary defence
organisations was relatively similar to the ideals of other middle-class
youth organisations. In the 1930’s, the youth organisations of
the labour movement and the Scout Association shared similar ideals,
but they lacked an emphasis on nationalism. During the inter-war
period, the majority of Finns lived in the countryside. It was therefore
essential to activate as many rural boys as possible. Furthermore,
it was also thought that children in the countryside were “naturally”
more energetic than the urban youth. Thus, rural boys were perceived
to be ideal candidates for the organisation. 
The Civil Guard for Boys had competition, as the Scout Association
had been founded about ten years earlier. It was thought to serve
as an example for the Civil Guard for Boys, but it was mainly active
in larger towns at that time. Later, the rival organisations competed
with each other for the same potential members.  However, the patriotic emphasis in the Civil
Guard boy organisation was much more pronounced, compared with other
youth organisations at that time. Its values stressed national defence,
whereas the Scout Association lacked the militarism dominant in
the nationalistic atmosphere prevalent in Finland
during the 1920’s and 1930’s.  Moreover, the boys’ activities served the
military objectives of the organisation. This is thought to be one
of the main reasons why youngsters joined the Civil Guard for Boys
in such great numbers.  The boys were also given patriotic-religious
education, in the form of lectures and recommended reading, but
the focus in their socialisation was on physical activities.
The Civil Guard for Boys encouraged its members to join the Civil
Guards when they were old enough to do so. About 70 per cent of
the Civil Guard boys joined the adult organisation after the age
of 17.  Boys from the urban middle-
and upper-classes were keen on joining the youth organisation. Nevertheless,
the Civil Guard for Boys was first and foremost a fellowship of
agrarian youngsters. The historian Erkki Vasara explains that this
was an important reason why the Civil Guard for Boys was more successful
than the Scout Association, which did not gain support among young
people in the Finnish countryside.
The Civil Guards and the Lotta Svärd organisation became extremely
popular in the 1930’s. In the same way, the Civil Guard for Boys
became one of the largest and most important youth organisations.
Especially after the Winter War of 1939-1940, its membership increased
significantly. By the end of 1939 it had about 32,000 members and
four years later this had risen to over 70,000.
 In 1941, the youth organisation officially became an independent
organisation. At the same time, the name of the organisation was
changedto Soldier Boys (Sotilaspojat). The age limit for joining
the voluntary defence organisation was lowered from 12 to 10.
During World War II, the nature of the organisation became more
serious and work-oriented. Like many other youth organisations,
the Soldier Boys took part in voluntary work and undertook labour
on farms and in war-time hospitals.
 The tasks performed by the boys were similar to those
performed by soldiers at the home front. During the latter stages
of the Continuation War, the Soldier Boys also took a notable step
towards military action when they were employed as air raid defence
operators in the Finnish Army.  In effect the boys who took part in these
activities were soldiers.
Little Lottas - Caring Female Citizens
Plans had already been formulated to establish an organisation
for girls in the beginning of the 1920’s, although these were only
realised in 1931. In this interim period, activities at a local
level had been organised for girls.  The main idea of the Little Lottas was to
develop a sister organisation to the Civil Guard for Boys and one
that was also similar to Lotta Svärd. The main duty of the girls
was to maintain and support the Civil Guard for Boys. For example,
they collected money in order to fund supplies for the boys’ summer
camps. Furthermore, the name of their organisation- “Little Lottas”-
suggested the nature of their activities.  Unlike the Civil Guard for Boys, the Little
Lottas were never officially independent of Lotta Svärd. However,
the Little Lotta organisation was assigned a crucial role as a guardian
of moral standards within the defence family. This explains why
the Lotta Svärd organisation wanted to subject the girls to close
educational and moral guidance. The boys, on the other hand, were
thought to need more independence in order to train them for their
future roles as soldiers.
The girls learned from the Lotta Svärd organisation that it was
a woman’s role to assist their male counterparts. Thus, they supported
the Civil Guard for Boys as Lotta Svärd did for the Civil Guards.
Religious and patriotic education was considered more important
for the girls than for the boys in the voluntary defence movement.
Consequently, they studyied history, geography and religion with
more of a nationalistic emphasis. Elementary school teachers typically
led the Little Lottas- especially at the local level- and even
the leader of the national Lotta Svärd organisation, Fanni Luukkonen,
was a teacher by profession.  This is probably why an educational
emphasis was placed on the socialisation of the Little Lottas. It
was thought more important to install correct moral values to girls
and to lead them towards the “right way”. After all, they would
one day become the mothers of the next generation of the Civil Guard
However, the activities of the youth organisation also consisted
of plays, choirs, games and summer camps, especially before the
war. In addition, members of the Little Lotta organisation were
given the opportunity to undertake physical exercise, such as cross-country
skiing, orienteering and gymnastics. The Lotta Svärd organisation
emphasised sporting activities, althoughit was important that the
types of exercise were appropriate for girls and women and enabled
them to do well in their overall supportive duties.
 Nevertheless, becoming a Little Lotta opened up interesting
new avenues for rural girls. Whilst there had previously been sporting,
religious and temperance organisations and many other civic organisations
since the end of the nineteenth century, ordinary girls in the countryside
could now for the first time have a leisure-time activity outside
the direct control of their parents.
One of the reasons for the relatively late commencement of organised
activities for girls in the voluntary defence movement was the existence
of the Girl Scout Association. The Lotta Svärd leaders thought that
the Girl Scout Association had similar values and ways of acting,
and thus they did not want to compete with it. However, the Girl
Scout Association was not active in the countryside. This explains
why little girls living in the countryside were particularly encouraged
to join local lotta activities. Like the Civil Guard for Boys, the
Little Lotta organisation became particularly popular among rural
It was possible to join the Little Lotta organisation at the age
of eight, which was a lower age limit than the boys ever had. However,
the approval of a guardian (usually the mother or the father) was
needed. The age limit for joining Lotta Svärd was seventeen- the
same as the male equivalent. The Little Lotta organisation became
very popular among Finnish girls, and by the end of the year 1943
it had nearly 50,000 members.
Educating prospective members of Lotta Svärd was one of the main
aims of the Little Lotta organisation. On this count the founders
of the organisation succeeded very well, as by the end of 1930’s
the majority of new Lotta Svärd members had previously belonged
to the Little Lotta movement. This was important because the girls
were thought to have absorbed the “lotta ideology” during their
time in the juvenile organisation, and therefore they were assumed
to be trustworthy and decent members. These long-time members were
particularly valuable to the voluntary defence movement because
the reputation of the organisation rested on the moral character
of its members. New recruits who joined the expanding Lotta Svärd
during the war years did not receive the education given to members
of the organisation during the 1930’s. This was a problem for the
voluntary defence movement during the war years, when the sexual
morals of women, in general and at the front, were strongly controlled.  On the whole, there was an
effort to control women’s sexuality, which constituted one of the
key issues in both military and nationalistic organisations. In
times of heightened nationalistic conflict, the morals of women
received particular attention, with authorities often trying to
exert direct control over women’s bodies.
 This was certainly the case inside the Finnish voluntary
defence movement, where girls – as mothers-to-be – were thought
to need a strict moral code.
During the war years, the character of the Little Lotta organisation
changed considerably The name of the organisation changed from Little
Lottas to Lotta Girls (Lottatytöt)
 in order to emphasise the role and work of the older girls
(aged between 14 to16). The activities of the Lotta Girls became
more work-oriented and their main assignment was to serve at the
home front. They were to take up tasks from members of Lotta Svärd,
who were serving in greater numbers closer to the front and in military
hospitals. Ideological education, however, still remained important.
Generation, gender and power
In explicit terms, the Finnish voluntary defence movement consisted
of a two-generation dyad, but implicitly it included a third generation:
grandparents. In this study, the term “generation” consists of different
age groups, cohorts and “generation units”  , but it also has connections
to kinship (descent) on both a symbolic and concrete level. When
studying the “generations” of the defence movement, as well as the,
adult and youth organisations, it is easy to discern the continuation
of traditional values. However, one also encounters experiences
that are unique to each generation.
Generational conflict often involves new generations challenging
the norms and values of previous generations. Yet, inside the defence
family no significant conflict existed. These two (or three) different
generations of the movement were shaped by a particular historical
context. These cohorts became generations through the social significance
of the periods in which they lived. Generational consciousness emerged
through a shared experience of a traumatic historical event, such
as a war.  The grandparents and parents of the older
generations of the voluntary defence movement were influenced by
the years of oppression  , independence and the Civil
War, whilst the younger generation were especially affected by the
outbreak of the Winter War. Crucially, the social significance of
these events was different in Finnish society.
Gender is also a strong defining element within each generation
 . The basis for constructing gender was similar to that
found within the Finnish school system, where boys and girls envisaged
as growing into separate female and male citizens with different
duties and spheres of influence.
 Social motherhood was the main objective when educating
girls (and women) during the inter-war period. Taking care of the
home and family were the main tasks for girls, but they were also
expected to perform the same caring tasks in the public sphere.
Thus, these caring tasks transcended the boundary between the private
and public spheres. > The voluntary defence movement educated girls with very similar
objectives in mind. Members of the Civil Guard for Boys were trained
to become civil guard soldiers, by undertaking sporting and military
activities that supposedly inspired the youth. In the Western world
on the whole, nationalism became more militarized and ideal notions
of masculinity stressed self-control, physical power and toughness
after World War I.  This was also obvious in the
politically divided atmosphere of 1920’s and 1930’s Finland, where
the ideal man was perceived to be a determined warrior.
 Members of the Civil Guard for Boys were small soldiers
who needed to be ready to step up and face the ultimate sacrifice
to protect their families and the nation.
It is difficult to find generational conflict in the voluntary
defence movement. Therefore, I am interested in the power relationship
between the adults and youth inside the movement. If one only undertakes
a superficial exploration of the question of power, the adult subordination
of children is clearly evident in the Finnish Defence family. Young
girls and boys typically joined the voluntary defence movement because
they followed the example of their own family members and other
relatives. Parents supported their activities and thus reinforced
the ideal of the defence family. In the 1930’s, the activities
of girls and boys in the voluntary defence movement were very clearly
controlled by adults, that is, the older generation. They planned
the kind of activities that were aimed to attract young people and
to be useful for the future of the defence family. However, the
general salient point in organisational activities is to assure
the continuity andthis was the case in the voluntary defence movement.
Hence, youth also exercised power. If the Civil Guard for Boys and
the “little lotta” girls had not been enthusiastic about the ideology
and activities of the voluntary defence movement, the organisation
would have disintegrated. However, during the 1920’s to 1940’s there
was no fear of this because both the Little Lotta movement and the
Civil Guard for Boys were among the most popular youth organisations
in the country. 
As mentioned above,Finnish society was deeply divided after the
Civil War of 1918. For many Finns, the Civil Guards and Lotta Svärd
were significant agents in this division, which made it impossible
for many men and women to join them. Nor did the organisations want
reds to join them. The youth organisations, however, were founded
at a time when national healing had begun and young girls and boys
were encouraged to think about the future. For the Civil Guards,
the youth organisations were a channel that helped to diffuse their
ideology among children raised by their political opponents. It
was not uncommon for workers’ children to join the Civil Guard for
Boys or the Little Lotta movement, even if their parents were against
the idea and were not members of a voluntary defence organisation.
 In this sense, members of the younger generation exercised
power and the future of the movement rested on their shoulders.
During the war years the defence family was re-negotiated on organisational
and individual levels. The significance of the Civil Guards diminished
during the Second World War because of the crucial role of the Finnish
National Army. At this juncture in Finnish history, the younger
generation- members of the Little Lotta and Soldier Boys movements-
received significant positions within the defence family. At this
stage, their responsibilities grew substantially and they exercised
power. When the name of the organisation for boys was changedto
Soldier Boys (Sotilaspojat), the main idea was to soften the direct
connection to the Civil Guards and its political implications, while
also recruiting more members to the voluntary defence movement.
Although lotta-mothers were central figures and held the most power
in keeping the defence family alive during the war years, they also
received support from soldier boys who assumed many of the tasks
that their fathers had carried out within each defence family. Older
girls were supposed to both support the army and replace men at
the home front. Taking care of homes and families was left to the
“older” women, with the help of lotta girls and soldier boys in
the family. Young and single women could carry out support services
outside the home. Many worked close to the front and thus acted
as a vital support of the national army in the defence of the nation. 
In conclusion, how can one summarise the role of the younger generation
in the voluntary defence movement? In brief, their role was crucial.
In the early stages of the movement’s history, children were thought
to be miniature copies of the adult lottas and civil guards. However,
the voluntary defence movement soon realised that the younger generation
needed new and attractive forms of activity in order to continue
their patriotic ideals. The defence family was created because all
members were needed. Girls and boys also represented a new era with
the “right” moral values. Moreover, the younger generation managed
to draw all aspects of Finnish society within their ranks, which
was something the adult organisations failed to do.
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 The Civil Guards and the Lotta Svärd organisations were
closed in the autumn of 1944.
 “Lotta Svärd” – yhdistyksen säännöt. Hamina 1921- The
Rules of Lotta Svärd 1921.
 For example, Helén 1997, pp. 203-204.
 For example, Yuval-Davis 1997, p. 43, 66; Sluga 1998,
 Kettunen 1998, pp. 283-285.
 Nevala 2002, pp. 93-114.
 For example, Aapola & Kaarninen 2003 p. 12; Cunningham
 Siisiäinen 1988, pp. 48-49.
 Taskinen 1992, pp. 63-70.
 McClintock 1993, p. 64; Valenius 2004, p. 57.
 Aapola & Kaarninen 2003, pp.12-13.
 Michel Foucault has defined the concept of “power” as
a productive principle. Domination is not the essence of power
nor is plain force. In Foucault’s thinking, power basically functions
as a concept, which attempts to understand how social practices
work. In his word: s“The exercise of power is the way in which
certain actions may structure in the field of other possible actions”
Dreyfus & Rabinow 1982.
 Pirhonen 1977, pp. 81-90; Puranen 2001, pp.102-110.
 For example, Aalto 1984, pp. 11-14.
 Raikkala 1964, pp. 265-266; Vasara 1997, pp. 539-563.
 Aalto 1984, pp. 29-39; Puranen 2001, pp. 164-167.
 Vasara 1997, pp.622-624; Puranen 2001, pp. 104, 167.
 Aalto 1984, pp. 29-39.
 Vasara 1998, pp.134-135; Nevala 2003, p. 347.
 Vasara 1997, pp. 595-598.
 Raikkala 1966, pp. 415-418.
 Raikkala 1966, p. 268, 418.
 Pirhonen 1977, pp. 136-274; Puranen 2001, pp.281-453;
Hartikainen 2004, pp.25, 29-41.
 Aalto 1984, pp. 99-103.
 Seila 1972, p. 123; Nevala 2001, pp. 98-99.
 Taskinen 1992, p. 19.
 See, for example, Bäckström 1993, pp. 139-142.
 Laine 1992, pp. 203-205; Vasara 1997, pp. 496-502.
 Koskimies 1964, pp. 146-147; Lukkarinen 1981, p. 103;
Mustajärvi 1996, pp. 20, 24; Savunen 1999,pp. 62-63.
 Olsson 2005, pp. 135-161.
 Edmunds & Turner 2002, pp. 96-101.
 In this text, I systematically use the term Little Lottas.
 Koskimies 1964, pp. 293-298; Lukkarinen 1981, pp. 105,
160-163; Taskinen 1992, pp. 23, 35-37; Nevala 2003, pp. 348-349.
 The term is taken from Karl Mannheim (1952).
 Virtanen 2001, pp. 33-39.
 The last years under Russian rule (1899-1917) in Finland
witnessed substantial weakening of the country’s autonomy. The
period of oppression during these years is a widely accepted fact
in the political history of Finland.
 Edmunds and Turner 2002, pp. 95-98.
 Kaarninen 1995; Tuomaala 2004.
 For example, Sulkunen 1987; Sulkunen 1991.
 Ahlbäck 2004, pp. 152-165.
 For example, Nevala 2003, pp. 349-351.
 For example, Vasara 1997, pp. 590-591; Nevala 2003,
 The lotta girls could join the Lotta Svärd organisation
at the age of 17. The majority of lotta girls who served close
to the front were young and unmarried. At the beginning of the
Continuation War (1941-1944), the Finnish authorities imposed
a rule stipulating that women under 20 were not allowed to be
present at the front. Later this order was rescinded.