Destiny dealt cruelly with Woodrow Wilson. The lover of peace, as fate would have it,was forced to lead a hesitant and peace-loving nation into war.As the last days of 1916 unfolded, the president made one final attempt to mediatebetween the embattled belligerents. In one of his most moving speeches he declaredthat only a negotiated “peace without victory” would prove durable.Germany responded, by declaring on January 31, 1917, that they would wageunrestricted submarine warfare, sinking all ships, including America’s, in the war zone.Wilson, his bluff called, broke diplomatic relations with Germany but refused to declarewar unless Germany undertook “overt” acts against American lives.
WAR by ACT of GERMANY To defend American interests, Wilson asked Congress for authority to arm American merchant ships. Meanwhile, the sensational Zimmerman note was intercepted and published on March 1, 1917 – what angered Americans about this note? On the heels of the Zimmerman note came the long-dreaded “overt” acts in the Atlantic – what were the Germans doing? What was happening in Russia at the same time? How did this make it “easier” for America to wage war on the side of the Allies? Subdued and solemn, Wilson stood before a hushed joint session of Congress on April 2, 1917 and asked for a declaration of war. Wilson’s gamble of profitable neutrality had not paid off. Did Wall Street and big business drag us into war? In the end, why did the U.S. choose to wage war against Germany, rather than Great Britain?
WILSON IDEALISM ENTHRONED The task for Wilson was how to arouse the American people to shoulder this unprecedented burden. To unify the country, he would have to proclaim more glorified aims. Identify Wilson’s idealistic twin goals. Was his appeal effective in rallying the American people?
WILSON’S FOURTEEN POINTSWilson quickly came to be recognized as the moral leader of the Allied cause. He called asummit on January 8, 1918, when he delivered his famed Fourteen Points Address toCongress. What were his Fourteen Points designed to do?Identify the Fourteen Points. Which one was cherished by Wilson?In the end, how many of the Fourteen Points were incorporated?Why did the Allied European powers balk at embracing Wilson’s vision of a just,permanent, and open peace through his Fourteen Points?Why was it imperative to the Allied cause that Russia remain in the war?
CREEL MANIPULATES MINDS Mobilizing the mind for war, both in America and abroad, was an urgent task facing the Washington authorities. For this purpose the Committee on Public Information was created. It was headed by journalist George Creel. How did the Creel organization prove that words were indeed weapons? Was Creel effective in arousing American passion? Did this create any problems?
ENFORCING LOYALTY & STIFLING DISSENTAs American emotion mounted, hysterical hatred of Germans and things Germanic sweptthe nation.Explain the Espionage Act (1907) and the Sedition Act (1918).These prosecutions form an ugly chapter in the history of American civil liberty.Presidential pardons were rather freely granted following the war, yet a few victimslingered behind bars into the 1930’s.
THE NATION’S FACTORIES GO to WAR Victory was no foregone conclusion – was the country prepared for war? Towering obstacles confronted economic mobilizers – identify them. A “work or fight” rule, requiring all able- bodied males to be regularly employed in some useful occupation, was issued by the War Department in 1918. Even in a globe-girdling crisis, the American preference for laissez-faire and for a weak central govt. proved amazingly strong.
Perspiring workers were urged to put forththeir best effort, spurred by the slogan,“Labor, Will Win the War.”Women were encouraged to enter industryand also agriculture, where they were called“farmerettes.”
Fortunately, Samuel Gompers and his powerful AFL gave loyal support to the war effort.
The black workers who entered thesteel mills in 1919 were but a fractionof the tens of thousands of southernblacks drawn to the North in wartimeby the magnet of war-industryemployment.These migrants made up the small-scale beginnings of a great northwardAfrican-American trek that wouldeventually grow to massiveproportions.Their sudden appearance in previouslyall-white areas sometimes sparkedinterracial violence, one of the worstoccurring in Chicago in 1919.
Yet labor harbored grievances. Wages haddoubled by 1918, but inflationary prices,boosted by the war, kept pace or surpassedwages. Also, their right to organize stilleluded them.Not even the call of patriotism and Wilsonianidealism could stifle labor disputes – duringthe conflict there were approx. 6,000 strikes.The National War Labor Board, with formerPresident Taft as co-chairman, was finallyestablished as the supreme court for labordisputes.More than a thousand cases came before it.
SUFFERING UNTIL SUFFRAGEWomen also heeded the call of patriotism and opportunity, but the war did split the women’smovement deeply. The National Women’s Party opposed America’s participation in the war and womenin the war effort.But the larger part of the suffrage movement, represented by the National American WomanSuffrageAssociation, supported Wilson’s war. Leaders justified support for the war by arguing thatwomen must take part in the war effort to earn a role in shaping the peace. The fight for democracyabroad was women’s best hope for winning true democracy at home.War mobilization gave new momentum to the suffrage fight. Impressed by women’s work, PresidentWilson endorsed woman suffrage as “a vitally necessary war measure.”
In 1917 New York voted for suffrage at the state level; Michigan, Oklahoma, and South Dakotafollowed. Eventually the groundswell could not be contained. In 1920, eighty years after the first callsfor suffrage at Seneca Falls, the 19th Amendment was ratified, giving all American women the right tovote.Despite political victory, women’s wartime economic gains proved fleeting. But feministscontinued to flex their political muscle in the postwar decade, especially in campaigns forprotective laws.