Archive for December, 2017

Where Women Supplant Men Because of War

 

Among the jobs which were women were filling in for men in larger numbers as a result of World War I: streetcar conductors, subway guards, elevator runners, firefighters, munition works, the felt hat industry, radium plating, and wagon drivers.

As a man, I would gladly volunteer for even the most unjust war to avoid an occupation of radium plating. Guess how Marie Curie died?

Where Women Supplant Men Because of War: Changes Taking Place in Many Industries — Employers Report New Workers’ Adaptability in Fields Hitherto Barred — Equal Pay Now the Rule (PDF)

From Sunday, December 30, 1917

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Written by Jesse

December 31st, 2017 at 8:01 am

Mars and Santa Claus Meet Here

In what is probably the single best piece of writing I’ve seen during my time running Sunday Magazine, this article describes the fewer toys, barren shop windows, and a new somewhat lonelier holiday celebration for Americans in the throes of World War I.

It is a changed Santa Claus that will visit New York on this, the first Christmas that has found America buckled down to the grim task of playing a part in the great world conflict — a war-rationed Santy who is trying to do his bit.

The old twinkling eyes, rosy cheeks, cheery smile, and jolly paunch — symbols of merriment and hospitality, of kindliness and generosity — have lost some of their pristine glory. When hard-fisted necessity in the guise of the Higher Cost-of-Living, has been busy depleting the pocketbook for these many months past, when Charity is making her appeals for the starving and homeless in many quarters of the globe, when Patriotism is crying for funds with which to fight the enemy, the gift-pack must perforce shrink, the stuffed turkey be forsworn, the punch-bowl stay dry.

But if the old spirit of Merry Christmas has been tempered, if it has been shorn of some of its jollity, some of its splendidly careless generosity, because there is no longer “peace on earth,” there has come a community kindliness, a sobered realization of the ties that bind us to those outside our circle of kinship and friendship, a bestowal of hospitality and generosity upon the stranger and the poor such as we have never before seen. And so, after all, those gaudy colored angels perched upon their Christmas-card cloud can still trumpet forth with all their old fervor “good-will toward men.”

Be thankful for all that’s going right in the year 2017, whether in your own personal life or in the world at large. Happy holidays… and to all a good night.

Mars and Santa Claus Meet Here: First Christmas of the War Finds America No Longer the Lavish Spender of Other Years — Signs of Great Changes Seen on All Sides (PDF)

From Sunday, December 23, 1917

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Written by Jesse

December 24th, 2017 at 8:01 am

Posted in Life,War

Ebb of Pacifism in America

Prior to American entry in World War I, there was a not-insubstantial and vocal contingent of opposition. Eight months later, that had shriveled up to nearly nothing:

“But today the great majority of the altruists are out of the peace party; they recognized the reality of a war of justice, and quit idealism for humanity. Some of the altruists are still in the party, but they ‘are singing low,’ to quote one of the most influential who, accordingly, insists upon the anonymity of this quotation. And such flabby activity of the peace movement as exists today is being stimulated by the Socialist, the anarchist, the alien propagandist, or ‘the professional gasbag element.'”

One particular example was mentioned, a man who remains a household name even today. (Although his later Nazi sympathies would color how fewer generations would view his stances on war and politics.)

“Because of the sensational methods of his peace advocacy, the name of Henry Ford stands out. Mr. Ford spent $400,000 in his expedition to ‘get the boys out of the trenches by Christmas.’ Upon his return to this country he announced that he was ready to spend $25,000,000, or as much more as might be necessary, to prevent any improvement or extension of the naval or military establishment of the United States. Four months after we declared war he said that ‘we must prepare to go the limit for the struggle.’ A little later, in taking $5,000,000 of Liberty bonds, he said that the United States, in making war on Germany, did ‘the best thing that ever happened for the world.’ He has also come out for universal military training, and now he has himself joined the staff of the Shipping Board.”

Imagine getting that level of nearly-unanimous support on anything today, especially something so consequential.

Ebb of Pacifism in America: Voices Which Were Loud Last Summer Have Been Silenced by a Few Months of War — How the Leaders Came to Realize the Futility of Their Old Arguments (PDF)

From Sunday, December 23, 1917

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Written by Jesse

December 23rd, 2017 at 8:01 am

Posted in Politics,War

“Keep Jolly!” Somme Veteran Tells Our Men

How does a soldier keep from going insane in wartime? Maintain your sense of humor. That was the advice in this 1917 article. Among the examples they gave were:

“They give absurd names to everything. The Tommies call the ‘R.I.P.’ that is put on a soldier’s grave ‘Rise If Possible.’ When the rats were bad in Belgium and we were amusing ourselves by shooting at them along the parapet, I heard a pal of mine tell a rookie that those trench rats were so big that he had seen one of them trying on his greatcoat.”

Alas, people wouldn’t become that fun until the late 1970s. If this was the best humor they had to offer, a lot of WWI soldiers probably did go insane.

“Keep Jolly!” Somme Veteran Tells Our Men: Soldiers at the Front Would Go Crazy If They Didn’t Joke, Says Lieutenant Alexander McClintock, U.S.R., Formerly in the Canadian Army (PDF)

From Sunday, December 23, 1917

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Written by Jesse

December 22nd, 2017 at 5:10 pm

Posted in History,War

Troublous Times for the Theatre Business

 

“In fact, the last week has been about the worst week in the history of the American theater.” That was the worry gripping Broadway in December 1917. What was causing this?

“Pro Bono Publico writes to his favorite paper that it is because the plays presented nowadays are so inferior that intelligent people won’t tolerate them.” This is similar to the main explanation for why movie box office in summer 2017 had its lowest-selling summer since 1997: that almost every summer release besides Wonder Woman and Dunkirk was terrible. (It wasn’t competition from Netflix and the like; Netflix was almost as massive in 2016 and 2015, which were comparatively stronger box office years.)

Other explanations offered included a wartime tax on theater tickets, and the fact that war started to become more “real” for Americans outside of combat round October due to several factors such as a sugar shortage, even though America had entered the conflict in April.

Troublous Times for the Theatre Business: All Sorts of Suggestions for Remedying War Slump Are Being Considered by the Managers — The Question of Prices and Ticket Speculators (PDF)

From Sunday, December 16, 1917

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Written by Jesse

December 16th, 2017 at 12:20 pm

War Gifts and Taxes Threaten Home Charity

 

Domestic charitable organizations were facing a challenge in 1917. Because most charitable donations were suddenly going overseas as a result of American involvement in World War I that year, domestic charities found their donations drying up, according to Charity Organization Society of the City of New York President Robert W. de Forest”

“The need in Europe is great — very great. Let us help Europe to meet it if we can. But the direct responsibility for meeting that need falls on the great nations of Europe, one of which certainly is wealthier than our own [referring to the United Kingdom]… Yes, I believe in giving liberally to help suffering in Europe, but we should hold ourselves sufficiently in reserve to be able to relieve suffering at home.”

Today, charitable giving is consistently reaching new highs. Americans gave a record $390.0 billion to charity in 2016, itself up from the previous record the year before: $373.2 billion in 2015. The economy has been good and improving the past few years, while the nation was not at war.

War Gifts and Taxes Threaten Home Charity: How Local Benefactions Are Affected by American Philanthropy in Europe — New Government Levies Curtail Incomes of Those Who Formerly Gave Freely (PDF)

From Sunday, December 16, 1917

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Written by Jesse

December 15th, 2017 at 12:02 pm

Posted in Politics,War

Trade Pact of Nations as Bar to Future Wars

This article argued that the optimal way to deter warfare was economic sanctions, a policy that was used far less at the time of its 1917 publication than today.

“Germany might not have gone to war if she could have conceived that the world would rise to defend the signatures on a scrap of paper. But neither Germany, nor even Bolshevist Russia, could fail to see that the world would infallibly and instantly defend and avenge interests so peculiar to each of them, and yet so common to all, as the security for the world’s commerce.”

Alas, the actual track record for economic sanctions as a deterrent to warfare has been decidedly mixed. As Center for the National Interest Executive Director Paul J. Saunders argued in a 2013 op-ed:

“Washington has not tried to compel another major power with sanctions since 1940-41, when America imposed them on Imperial Japan, culminating in an oil embargo and the seizure of Japanese assets in July 1941. At that time, the United States sought to deter Japan from seizing Southeast Asia and demanded that Tokyo withdraw from Indochina and China. Japan in turn concluded that American sanctions made the occupation of Southeast Asia essential, as well as the devastation of the United States Navy.”

In 2017, sanctions have been instituted earlier this year on Russia, North Korea, and Iran. All three are considered among the nations that America could most likely go to war with given current geopolitical conditions, especially if you count “cyberwar” as modern-day warfare.

The bill passed the Senate 98-2. It was signed into law over President Trump’s stated objections that the legislation “improperly encroaches on Executive power, disadvantages American companies, and hurts the interests of our European allies.” Only time will tell if the sanctions will be enough to prevent war.

Trade Pact of Nations as Bar to Future Wars: No Government Could Afford to Forfeit Privileges in World Clearing House or to Imperil Gold Hoard Belonging Jointly to All Countries (PDF)

From Sunday, December 9, 1917

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Written by Jesse

December 8th, 2017 at 2:40 pm

Posted in Politics,War

Foreign Medals for American Soldier Heroes

Although America officially entered WWI in April 1917, the war began more than two and a half years earlier in July 1914. Some American soldiers had been serving in foreign armies since 1914, 1915, or 1916, fighting for nations that the U.S. would later officially ally with.

Under the bill, any American soldier would now be allowed to receive a foreign medal for their military service, such as the British Victoria Cross of the French Croix de Guerre.

Strangely, I’ve been unable to track down precisely whether this bill passed into law, as the article did not mention the bill’s exact title. It does not appear to be listed in this list of legislation enacted during that Congress, although that list acknowledges it’s incomplete. (If anybody in the comments section could track down the exact fate of this bill, it would be much appreciated.)

But presumably it passed, because there have been five American recipients of the Victoria Cross, all of whom were during WWI.

In 2017, the highest American military award called the Medal of Honor has never been awarded to a non-American recipient. Non-Americans have won other high American medals, the first being the Navy Cross to Ernesto Burzagli in 1919, two years after this article’s publication.

Foreign Medals for American Soldier Heroes: Congress Is to Pass a Bill Removing Restrictions on Acceptance and Display of Honor Awards from Allies (PDF)

From Sunday, December 9, 1917

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Written by Jesse

December 7th, 2017 at 2:37 pm

Posted in Politics

Nation More United Than in Past Crises

During the Revolutionary War, an estimated 20 percent of colonists were loyalists to the Crown, 45 percent wanted independence, and the remaining 35 percent were undecided or somewhere in between.

During subsequent wars declared by Congress, the Senate only voted for the War of 1812 by 59 percent and voted for the Spanish-American War by 54 percent.

World War I saw no such doubt, either among Congress or the American public at large. The country was absolutely unified around its military conflict, in a way that would last through World War II several decades later, but become shattered in the Vietnam and post-Vietnam eras.

By 2017 we now live in a world where — as Bill Maher quipped — “You can’t get 70 percent of people to agree that the sun is hot.”

Nation More United Than in Past Crises: Throughout the Revolution, in War of 1812, and During Mexican, Civil, and Spanish Wars Our Internal Dissensions Were Continuous (PDF)

From Sunday, December 2, 1917

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Written by Jesse

December 3rd, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Posted in War

War’s Subtle Changes in New York Life

How did World War I change daily life in New York City, even for those who weren’t fighting in the trenches?

  • Women weren’t wearing as fashionable clothing. “Fashionable social life expressed its lyric genius in a cumulative series of events designed to reveal feminine Spring in its most ardent mood. Not in 1917.”
  • People were rationing their food intake. “Eating has followed drinking as one of the pasttimes no longer in vogue.”
  • Knitting became huge. “This extraordinary popular activity has seized the feminine half of the community with a democratic disregard of classes. The servant and the mistress are alike obsessed.”
  • Theater took a hit. “All ordinary attractions fall almost instantly. In one week seven stars folded their tents on Broadway. Plays that might have prospered in some other season have no chance this year.” [The simultaneous surging popularity of movies also played a large role.

War’s Subtle Changes in New York Life: Although the City Is Outwardly Moving in the Same Old Ways, There Are Marked Differences Just Beneath the Surface (PDF)

From Sunday, November 25, 1917

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Written by Jesse

December 2nd, 2017 at 1:57 pm

Posted in Life,War

Slackers Are Not Popular Among the Quakers

Quakers refused to take up arms in war, as their religious beliefs dictate, but that didn’t stop them from participating in every non-combat way they could during World War I. As explained by Robert Cromwell Root, Pacific Coast Director of the American Peace Society and a Quaker himself:

“I urged them all to do everything possible to help in all activities for the aid and comfort of the troops, to co-operate with the Government in its food conservation program, to join the Red Cross, to buy Liberty bonds. I found that they were already doing all of these things. Quaker women everywhere are knitting and making bandages for soldiers, collecting books to be sent to the camps, and aiding the Y.M.C.A. in its work among the men in the armies.”

Today the Quakers maintain their “conscientious objector” views towards combat. But it’s not affecting our military too greatly — according to the Quaker Information Center, there were about 76 thousand Quakers in the U.S. in 2012, or only about .02 percent of the U.S. population.

That’s a dramatic downturn from colonial times, when Quakers represented a full one-third of the colonists. The U.S. Quaker population has decreased 12 percent in only five years, prompting fears from within that the group could go extinct within a few decades.

Slackers Are Not Popular Among the Quakers: Though Exempt from Fighting, the Friends Are Serving in Many Ways to Win War — Men in Red Cross, Women Knitting (PDF)

From Sunday, November 25, 1917

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Written by Jesse

December 1st, 2017 at 1:32 pm

Posted in War