What was the domestic impact in the US of the First World War?

The First World War impacted the US domestically through military enlistments, propaganda, conscription, increased production, a changing workforce, conservation efforts, war bonds, government intrusion upon civil rights, and the loss or injury of soldiers.

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The First World War led to many changes in the United States. The US entered the war rather late, not declaring war on Germany until 1917, after Europe had been engaged in hostilities for nearly three years. Over the next year and a half, the US sent over 1.3 million soldiers off to war, and the American public was bombarded with messages about their duty to either enlist or at least support the war effort. When government officials feared that the US military would not get enough volunteers, they issued the Selective Service Act of 1917 to draft young men into the military.

Those left on the home front hurried to increase wartime production in factories and in homes. The War Industries Board was created to organize wartime production, and women joined factory workforces as men went off to war. Workers benefited from their wartime efforts when the National War Labor Board obtained unionization rights, higher wages, and eight-hour work days.

Women also worked to conserve resources at home so there would be more supplies for soldiers and to help the suffering people of European allies. Meatless Mondays, wheatless Wednesdays, heatless Mondays, and gasless Sundays were adopted by millions of families, who also planted gardens to raise some of their own food.

War is expensive, and the American public was expected to chip in by purchasing war bonds, called “Liberty Bonds.” By the end of the war, Americans had purchased over $20 billion of them to fund the war effort.

Not everything was rosy on the home front, however. The government was concerned about antiwar movements, so it passed the Espionage Act that allowed government officials to inspect mail and the Sedition Act that made it crime to criticize the war effort or the government. Obviously, these acts were highly intrusive upon citizens' civil rights. Furthermore, German Americans were often looked upon as the enemy simply because of their origins, and they experienced a great deal of discrimination during the war.

Finally, over 116,000 US soldiers died during World War I, and another 320,000 were wounded or became ill during the war. The lives of families that lost a loved one were changed forever, and those who were wounded or experienced illness also suffered from the after effects for a long time.

Indeed, the First World War changed American life in many ways as Americans pulled to fight and work for the war effort.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
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