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Women and the Great War

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  1. Introduction.
  2. A history of the Women's Movement: 1848-1914.
  3. War in Europe, suffragettes in the US.
  4. Suffragettes and the war.
  5. American women and the home front.
  6. Aftermath of war.
  7. Conclusion.

World War I, lasting from 1914 to 1918, was a culmination of entangling alliances, new technology and empirical greed. The Great War, as it is sometimes called, brought the whole of Europe into years of stalemate, death and destruction. United States soldiers were spared most of the war, and the country profited economically as a main producer of munitions, war machinery, and goods, as well as a source of financial backing for the Allies. Late American involvement in the war allowed for domestic social issues to remain at the forefront of national politics for the early years of European combat. As such, the American women's movement actively organized strikes and demonstrations, and lobbied for backing of the Federal woman-suffrage amendment while Europe was engulfed in war. Nonetheless, the U.S.'s official entrance into the war in 1917 placed restraints on female suffragists. Wilson, the American president at the time, encouraged women to take part in the war effort and make the sacrifices necessary to benefit the Allies and the American military. This signified that women's enfranchisement would have to wait for the end of the war.

[...] AMERICAN WOMEN AND THE HOME FRONT Once the United States officially entered World War the traditional social role of women changed. Women were, more than ever, expected to provide a support system for their families. They were not to antagonize their husbands or their country. Some volunteered overseas aiding the American Expeditionary Force as nurses, welfare workers, and telephone operators. In the U.S., over eight million volunteered for the Red Cross, while a considerable number transitioned to higher paying positions normally occupied by men. [...]


[...] CONCLUSIONS All in all, prior to World War I women in the United States were second class members of society; they were unable to vote and did not have substantial political representation or influence. Once the U.S. entered the war, most women felt obligated to support their husbands, fathers, brothers and sons. Criticism of the President and the war were considered unpatriotic. As such, the fight for female enfranchisement became of secondary concern, and women saw little improvement during wartime. [...]


[...] Moreover, the NAWSA saw no direct contradiction between Wilson's war aims, especially those pertaining to democracy, and the fight for female enfranchisement. Ms. Catt realized that if they joined their national war effort, they would be able to better plea their case once the war was over. Thus, World War I directly affected the suffragists. As a result, once the Woman's Party began picketing the White House, Ms. Catt and the National Board made clear that they had nothing to do with Ms. [...]

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