Women and Patriotism in Jim Crow America

By Francesca Morgan | Go to book overview
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Chapter Four
The War

WORLD WAR I was the first in a half century to demand substantial sacrifices from U.S. civilians. Consequently, the U.S. government strove hard to produce prowar patriotism in the population once the country entered the war in April 1917. The resulting sense of national emergency intensified by the Bolsheviks' takeover of Russia and their plans to spread communism worldwide proved to be a crucible that left no variant of American nationalism untransformed. Especially significant, war and revolution masculinized women's nationalism to a new degree. With millions of American men going to war, and with the male-dominated state's new interest in fostering patriotism, women now conferred cultural and moral authority on living men as distinguished from dead warriors and heroes more than on women. The men-centered nationalism espoused by women did not entail the repudiation of female political activism as long as women allowed male-dominated entities, most notably the state, to shape those agenda.

The adoption of men-centered nationalism was especially apparent among the Daughters of the American Revolution and pro-Union women who had always conflated nation, country, and state. In wartime, the women increasingly placed themselves on the nation's sidelines, cheering the men on the field. Groups of women who were comparatively ambivalent about the state African American and neo-Confederate also masculinized their nationalisms to a new degree. To civil rights activists and Garveyites alike, citizen

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