“For the Boys Over There”: The 1918 United War Work Campaign
Dr. Jeanne Petit
This project, the culmination of a summer of historical research at Hope College and the Library of Congress, is an online exhibit on the United War Work Campaign (UWWC), an American fundraising effort for World War I. Headed by the government’s Commission on Training Camp Activities, the campaign involved a confederacy of seven civilian groups wishing to aid the federal government in its war efforts, mainly by providing morally sound recreational services both in training camps and overseas. Sometimes called "The Seven Sisters," the organizations included the Jewish Welfare Board, the YMCA, and the National Catholic War Council. Five of the seven were of various religious affiliations. While the name “United War Work Campaign” implied unity, this was not always the case for the Campaign nor for the public it aimed to reach. The Seven Sisters often came to a head over questions of politics, religion, and more, and Americans at the time were divided by class, race, language, gender, politics, and religion. The groups of the UWWC, while ironically not completely united themselves, nevertheless aimed to present their coalition as a single united front against immoral recreation, and the campaign’s leaders hoped that their wartime reform would carry on past the armistice, drawing the diverse population of the country into a new, more unified American society. As we near the centennial of America’s involvement in the war, this website aims to offer a historical exhibit accessible to today’s American public, and to address the historical and ongoing question of what it means to be American.
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