Education

Mrs. Charles E. Simonson, President of a Support League, World War I, c. 1919


Historical Context
While men were fighting overseas during WWI to ensure that the world was “safe for democracy”, women were fighting on the home front for their own democratic ideologies, including the right to vote.  

Women’s roles in WWI were relatively limited to domestic responsibilities.  Images of women taking care of men as nurses or doing clerical work as telephone operators were common among U.S. propaganda for the war and in other images of the time period.  Despite the fact that the women’s suffrage movement was picking up steam, these were the images that permeated into American households and reinforced traditional gender roles within the family and society.

Additionally, women aided in the war effort by rationing their food, selling Liberty Bonds, fundraising for the Red Cross, and supplying other goods needed by soldiers.  In these ways women became crucial players in the war effort at home.  In order to successfully mobilize and organize these important volunteer efforts women’s support leagues developed.
 
Essential Question
How do women contribute to national issues?
Check for Understanding
Describe the woman in the photograph and explain her role during World War I.
[click to enlarge]
Mrs. Simonson., New York State Archives, NYSA_A0412-78_B13_F05_Simonson
Document Description
Photograph of Mrs. Charles E. Simonson, president of a support league during World War I, c. 1919.
Questions
  1. What can you infer about background of the women who participated in WWI support leagues from the picture of Mrs. Charles E. Simonson and the caption above it?  Who could afford to dedicate time to the goals of the support leagues?
Historical Challenge
Was WWI a watershed for women’s rights or a missed opportunity?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Art: Draw a poster depicting women’s importance in aiding in the war effort.
Science: What medicinal advancements were made in the years coming up to WWI that help nurses take care of wounded soldiers?
Resources
  1. Kennedy, David, et al. The American Volume 2: Since 1865. 13th ed. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006.