On this day, 100 years ago, the United States officially entered World War One. Congress voted overwhelmingly in favor of a war declaration on April 6, 1917. President Woodrow Wilson’s decision was impacted by the unrestricted attacks by German submarines on American ships, as well as the Zimmermann Telegram, a secret diplomatic communication, in January 1917, promising Mexico portions of the United States if Mexico gave their allegiance to Germany. America mobilized more than four million citizens during WWI, resulting in over 110,000 deaths and 200,000 wounded.
At this milestone, we reflect on how our nation entered a war that would shape the economic and social roles established in the country’s early history. Women became a labor force redirected from the home to industry and manning the logistical supply chain for the troops.
To meet this challenge DAR President General Sarah Guernsey and the DAR National Board of Management focused their attention on how the Society could deliver aid during the war. Their initiatives helped in shaping and directing the full force of the Daughters of the American Revolution into a direct service support role. The President General met with the Defense Secretaries and the newly formed DAR War Relief Service Committee established four branches of service that met with government approval: 1) knitting products required by troops, 2) establishing a “clipping bureau” (i.e. public relations officers), 3) preparing jellies for military hospitals and 4) adopting war orphans.
President General Guernsey, together with her National Board of Management, restructured the DAR into specific committees such as the War Relief Service Committee, with chosen DAR representatives from four geographic areas to provide assistance to State Regents. The National Society decided to practically and effectively support the war effort, to rapidly and efficiently deliver goods and services in support of our nation during WWI. These dramatic organizational construct changes shaped the trajectory of the Society to this day.
During the war, many DAR members served in the Red Cross, YMCA, and YWCA, in France, Italy, and other European countries. The most prominent of DAR members who devoted her service to the war was Jane Delano who was appointed the director of the wartime organization, the Department of Nursing, which supplied nurses to the Army, Navy and Red Cross, managing overseas mobilization of over 20,000 nurses.
One hundred years later, this somber commemoration provides us a chance to not only reflect on the events and impact of The Great War, but to celebrate the incredible role that DAR members played during that difficult time period.
The Society is highlighting the WWI Centennial in many ways throughout the year and creating opportunities for chapters to weave the commemoration into the fabric of our DAR work now through to the centennial celebration of the Treaty of Versailles in June of 2019. We encourage members to help commemorate WWI by spreading awareness in their local schools and communities about the history of this incredibly significant, but often overshadowed war.
As we come together in Washington, D.C. for the 126th Continental Congress in June, there will be special recognition of the centennial commemoration. You certainly won’t want to miss the exhibit that will be on display in the Americana Room highlighting the work of DAR members during WWI. For a sneak peek of the exhibition, view this slideshow about DAR support initiatives during World War One: www.dar.org/WWIefforts.
In the meantime, one of the best ways to learn more about the history of WWI and how you can be engaged in the centennial commemoration is to visit the United States World War One Centennial Commission (WW1CC) website at www.worldwar1centennial.org.
Last year, DAR became a Partner Organization with the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission and we have been working closely with them ever since. The Commission’s goals of Honor, Educate and Commemorate align well with DAR’s mission of Historic Preservation, Education and Patriotism. Today, you can watch a live stream of the Commission's Centennial Commemoration of the U.S. Entry into WWI at the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, MO beginning at 10 am CDT/11 am EDT on their website.
DAR members are also encouraged to join the Commemorative Events Committee’s DAR WWI Centennial Commemoration Facebook group to stay up to date on WWI Centennial Commission news and resources, interesting articles and photos related to WWI history, and DAR initiatives that members can incorporate into their chapter meetings and commemorative celebrations.
Mark your calendars for April 10th when PBS will premiere the American Experience series, “The Great War.” This six-hour, three-night event will tell the complex story of World War One through the voices of nurses, journalists, aviators, American troops and others from the time period, as well as explore the significant impact of the war politically, socially and culturally.
Today as we commemorate the anniversary of the United States entering The Great War, let us honor those men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country by committing ourselves to understanding and helping others learn the events and impact of World War One.