The war to end war one hundred years later: a First World War roundtable

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Date: June 22, 2017
From: Oregon Historical Quarterly(Vol. 118, Issue 2)
Publisher: Oregon Historical Society
Document Type: Essay
Length: 6,646 words
Lexile Measure: 1570L

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THE CONFLICT that H.G. Wells and other contemporaries depicted as the "war to end war," which we now know as the First World War, was a horrific global conflict that brought many complex questions and significant changes to Oregon and the nation. The United States entered the war in April 1917. The United States' wartime aim, according to President Woodrow Wilson, was nothing less than "making the world safe for democracy," which dovetailed nicely with major patterns of the Progressive Era, an intense period of transformation, reform, and reaction from the 1890s through 1920. From the outbreak of the conflict in Europe in the summer of 1914 through the peace-making in Paris in late 1918 and early 1919, Americans from all walks of life engaged in myriad strands of wartime activism that related directly to questions of citizenship.

The essays that follow provide vital discussions of that action for Oregon and for the nation. These intertwined historical analyses explore what we might call the "long" First World War period from the 1910s into the 1930s; they tackle distinctly Oregon perspectives as well as historical developments seen from national and global positions. Together, this roundtable reveals that one hundred years after the official U.S. entry into the war, we are still gleaning fresh insights, asking innovative questions, and finding new sources to better understand the significance and impact of the First World War in Oregon, in the United States, and for the world.

Before the war, many Oregonians were active participants in Progressive Era movements for reform. They built the Oregon System to bring government closer to the people, to fight corporate interests, and to empower communities through the initiative, referendum, and recall processes; enacted woman suffrage in 1912; and took steps to create safer workplaces and to support workers through maximum-hour legislation and the first enforceable minimum wage. Some Oregonians embraced more radical calls for change by supporting the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), embracing Socialism, and participating in increasingly fierce labor disputes from 1913 through the U.S. entry into the war and during its aftermath. (1) During the conflict, military and civilian officials so feared labor radicalism in the vital lumber industry, necessary for the construction of ships and airplanes, that they militarized workers as the Spruce Production Division and created an alternative labor organization, the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen. (2)

After the global conflict began in 1914, participants in movements for reform and peace vied with those engaged in movements for military preparedness, and those tensions sliced through the reform and progressive communities. Tension also resulted from wartime calls for loyalty to the goals of an expanding nationalist state, backed up by the repressive Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 that criminalized free speech and dissent. Official and local campaigns to silence opposition included brutal community surveillance of dissenters at the national level and in Oregon. Like other Americans, Oregonians had many responses to the question of whether to support or...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A499696066