The patriotic fervor that erupted in the United States during World War I upended expectations about citizenship. Public calls for service to the nation were inclusive of American women, and thousands mobilized for the war effort. But women’s war mobilization only partly explains why politicians previously opposed to woman suffrage ultimately embraced it. Nativist sentiments, aimed mostly at Germans, exploded during the war, leading to xenophobic federal legislation such as the Alien and Sedition Acts. Suffragists were often the loudest opponents of declarant suffrage – voting by noncitizens who had not finished the naturalization process – and their efforts to disenfranchise legally voting noncitizens while simultaneously demanding the ballot for themselves reveals how WWI exposed the contradictory nature of citizenship.
View the presentation, given as part of the National WWI Museum and Memorial’s 2022 Symposium Shifting Tides: Citizenship in a World of Conflict. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.