The Home Front During World War I
The Home Front
The federal government took several steps to fund the war and conserve resources. First, Congress raised taxes, bringing in added revenue of about $10 billion. Second, the government sold war bonds and persuaded Americans, through advertising, that it was their patriotic duty to buy them. A war bond is, in effect, a loan from a citizen to the government. The citizen gives the government, say, $10 in exchange for a bond—a slip of paper with a $10 face value. The purchaser can redeem the bond later for the face value plus what- ever interest has accumulated. The longer the purchaser holds the bond, the more money it will be worth when redeemed.
The newly created Food and Fuel Administrations regulated the production and supply of crops and coal. Americans began growing their own vegetables in what were called “victory gardens.” People went without meat on certain days of the week, without bread on others. The Fuel Administration promoted “heatless Mondays” so that people would conserve fuel on at least one day of the week.
The War Industries Board began regulating steel and other major industries, setting their prices and production levels. Many business owners loudly objected to this interference with free enterprise. However, they grew quiet when their profits soared.
The National War Labor Board arbitrated disputes between workers and management. In keeping with the reforming spirit of the Progressive Era, the board usually decided in favor of the workers. Union membership rose to unprecedented levels. Since so many men had left their jobs to join the army or navy, thousands of women took their place in a variety of jobs from brick- layer to teamster.
African Americans also took advantage of the new opportunities. Between about 1915 and 1930, hundreds of thousands of them moved from the segregated South to the North, where they hoped to find well-paid jobs and a respite from racial discrimination. This movement is known to history as the Great Migration. They soon found that there was no lack of racism in the North; still, they were able to earn more money in a less oppressive atmosphere.
Many people felt that the United States was manipulating the poor and the workers to fight a war that would benefit no one. The Socialist Party, led by Eugene Debs, was especially active against the war. So were the Indus- trial Workers of the World, the Quakers, and other organizations. Labor strikes organized specifically to protest the war drove Congress to pass the Espionage and Sedition Acts, which made it illegal to “utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal or abusive language” about the government, the American flag, or the military. Although these acts clearly violated the First Amendment, hundreds of people were convicted and sent to prison for speaking out.
Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:
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