Americanization and the National Catholic War Council
Dr. Jeanne Petit, Hope College
In the United States, the First World War emboldened citizens to promote patriotism and the qualities of America in which they truly believed. Catholic Americans responded heartily to this call for "Americanization." They formed the National Catholic War Council, a service organization that worked in cities across America as well as in France. The NCWC strove to teach immigrants the essentials of American citizenship, prove Catholic loyalty to America, and form the foundations for a more cohesive American community. Much of the work carried out by the National Catholic War Council occurred in Catholic Community Houses around the country. These houses fell under the direction of Catholic lay women, who were known as secretaries. They entered the impoverished neighborhoods of immigrants and encouraged both a preservation of the Catholic faith and an acceptance of American citizenship. This research will examine the challenges confronted by the Women’s Committee of the National Catholic War Council through their work in community houses around the country. Primary documents including reports and letters written by secretaries and others associated with the Women’s Committee of the NCWC will be analyzed to better understand the individual and collective Americanization goals of the NCWC. Furthermore, reports of success in the actualization of these goals will better shape an understanding of the influence the NCWC had on American society.
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