wwi a world safe for democracy
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Critical thinking questions

  1. What rights and freedoms do you think were limited during the war? Which groups of people may have been affected by this?
  2. How did the war either spark or increase social tensions in the United States? Why might some have wanted to suppress or ignore movements for civil rights during this time?
  3. Can you think of any groups that are fighting for equality today? How might the tense fights for equal rights 100 years ago have set the stage for discussions about democracy today?

Take a closer look

Political cartoon

The Espionage (1917) and Sedition (1918) Acts made it a crime to speak out against the war or share any information that might possibly harm the U.S.’s war effort.

Pay attention to the figures in this image and what they represent. According to this political cartoon, what rights did some Americans feel this “gag rule” suppressed?

WWI workplace poster

In the decades before WWI, many workers had joined unions that advocated for higher wages, safer workplaces, and shorter hours.

This workplace poster calls on workers to support the war effort, stating that they can either “co-operate” or “obstruct.”

Look closely at the images and text of the poster – what does it mean to co-operate? What might it mean to obstruct?

Suffragist Lucy Bird

Look at this photograph of suffragist Lucy Bird, taken after she was arrested during protests for woman suffrage.

She and other protesters with her were later awarded this pin by the National Woman’s Party. What do you think it represents? Why would the women who received these pins have worn them proudly?

Read more

Explore online

Make Way for Democracy! (The National World War I Museum and Memorial) – Portrays the lives of African Americans during the war through a series of rare images, documents and objects.

Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence (National Portrait Gallery) – This exhibit seeks to tell the story of the suffrage movement through portraits of women representing different races, ages and fields of endeavor.

Crusade for the Vote (National Women’s History Museum) – An extensive collection of topical articles, educator resources and primary documents related to the suffrage movement.