Documenting the American South Logo
 North Carolinians and the Great War Header
Statue of Liberty by Dan Sayre Groesbeck  James R. McConnell  Victory from Yackety Yack of Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen  The Spirit of America: Join  William Bradley Umstead helmet 
North Carolinians and the Great War: The Impact of World War I on the Tar Heel State
Introduction to The Home Front

I. General Introduction

"The Home Front" is a broad category that illustrates how the federal and state governments, charitable organizations, educational institutions, and individual North Carolinians responded to the war and the lasting impressions that the war left on the Tar Heel state. The section is divided into five subtopics.

"African Americans" offers introductory comments and texts that illustrate how black North Carolinians contributed to the war effort, both at home and abroad, and how the war influenced race relations.

The introduction, texts and illustrations in the "Educational Institutions" subsection reveal how the state's primary and secondary schools and especially its colleges and universities were transformed for the duration of the war.

"Mobilizing Resources" is the largest subsection in The Home Front. It explains the role of new government agencies and charitable organizations in coordinating the massive effort to raise money for the war and to produce and conserve important raw materials. "Mobilizing Resources" also reveals some of the effects of the war on public policy through the 1920s.

"Patriotism and Politics" shows how the war dominated North Carolina politics and how public officials encouraged patriotic support of the war, with both positive and negative consequences.

Finally, the selections under "Women" highlight the vital contribution of Tar Heel women to the war effort, both in North Carolina and in France. The introduction to the section also notes the degree to which the war led to long-term changes in gender roles. (For general overviews of North Carolina on the eve of the conflict and the wartime experience, see "Introduction: Carolinians Go to War.")

II. African Americans

The generation of black North Carolinians who confronted World War I had witnessed the imposition at the turn of the century of a "Jim Crow" society, with its pillars of legal segregation, political disfranchisement, and racial discrimination. Most were old enough to have seen the strides towards equality and uplift promised by emancipation and then Reconstruction in the 1870s hobbled by 1900 due to violent white racism, Democratic political subversion, and economic hardship. (For more, see "The North Carolina Experience" African Americans/Postbellum section.)

Nevertheless, black North Carolinians forged ahead in the 1900s, determined to build a community within the restrictions imposed by white racism, while also pushing for more inclusion into the larger society. African Americans saw education as the key to progress and pooled their usually meager resources to support black schools and colleges, filling the gaps left by white philanthropy and public subsidies. Most black folks struggled to make a living as farmers, usually as tenants and sharecroppers, although some did own their land. A wave of African American migrated to towns and cities, however, to take industrial jobs, especially in tobacco manufacturing. The black urban population also fostered the growth of a black professional class. These professionals, along with black ministers and educators, became community leaders and emissaries to the white power structure. (For more, see "The North Carolina Experience" African Americans/20th Century & Race Relations.)

North Carolina's early twentieth century race relations and racial policy were relatively moderate compared to the Deep South, a fact not lost on either white or black North Carolinians. Especially in urban areas, the white elite tolerated a degree of black economic power, educational achievement, and even political participation, as long as white supremacy remained unchallenged and the black community appeared sufficiently subservient and grateful for the benevolence. By the time of World War I, urban black civic leaders had learned the rules of the game--what historian William Chafe has termed a "progressive" system that emphasized "civilities" over "civil rights"--or proper racial etiquette over real equality--and played it as best they could. At the same time, African Americans in North Carolina and across the South recognized the oppression they lived with daily and looked for a chance to test its limits.

To this generation of African Americans, World War I provided an important opportunity to prove to white America their worth as citizens and thus their moral claim to more rights and opportunities. Like many African Americans in North Carolina, William James Edwards and Robert Russa Moton, two black Alabamans, for example, viewed the war in such terms. (In Edwards, see Chapter 20; in Moton, see chapter XI). Beyond the question of race, black North Carolinians were as patriotic as their white neighbors and ready to commit to the war effort.

African Americans served their state and nation both at home and abroad during the war. A few prominent black North Carolinians felt it was hypocritical, however, for African Americans to sacrifice to make the world safe for democracy while forced to endure Jim Crow conditions at home. At the beginning of the war, some white editorialists worried that German spies might use similar arguments to stir up disloyalty amongst the African American population. The state's black leaders quickly dispelled such fears, however. Instead, they rallied their communities to conserve already scarce resources and to dip into already meager savings to help the war effort. In fact, Kate M. Herring, the director of Publicity for the North Carolina War Savings Committee noted that black North Carolinians "have bought and have pledged to buy War Savings Stamps far more extensively in comparison with their ability than the white people." (See the Mobilizing Resources subsection of "The Home Front" for more general information.)

African American labor also contributed to the war effort and tried, with limited success, to use the war to better their economic lot. Black men and women helped to keep North Carolina's tobacco factories running during the war. They also tried to obtain better, higher paying jobs in textile mills, shipyards, and other war industries that had been vacated for the duration of the war by white men. Long-standing practices of occupational segregation and discrimination, however, hampered black advancement.

Black workers usually found little sympathy from the new government agencies that were supposed to ensure fair treatment of all wartime workers. (For more on wartime labor relations, see the Mobilizing Resources subsection.) In eastern North Carolina, the state and federal governments instituted a kind of forced labor system on African American farm workers. A new "Work or Fight" program required black women and any black men unfit for military service to work for whichever white farmer or planter local officials assigned them to for whatever wage the employer deemed fit.

In addition to their economic contribution to the war effort, African American men accounted for nearly one-quarter of North Carolina's military role (142,505 of the 480,491 men registered for the draft in the state and 20,350 of the 86,457 Tar Heels mustered into service.) The fact that these numbers roughly parallel the African American percentage of the population suggests that local Selective Service boards were not so discriminatory in their application of the draft as they were in the Deep South. There, local draft boards sometimes protected white men by registering black draftees in their place.

Both the U.S. Army and Navy relegated black servicemen to segregated companies commanded by white officers. African American troops also endured the added burdens of the Army's discriminatory supply and pay policies. (See The Soldiers' Experience for more general information about North Carolina servicemen.)

The experience of World War I changed the African American community and race relations across the country, and to a lesser extent in North Carolina and the South, over the next decade. After the Armistice in November 1918, many African Americans heeded W. E. B. DuBois' charge not just to return from fighting, but to "return fighting" against Southern racism. At an Emancipation Day ceremony in Raleigh in January 1919, a crowd of 3,000 passed resolutions condemning lynching and attacking segregation. Through the 1920s, the annual commemorations of emancipation as well as the Armistice ending World War I remained occasions for rallies. Editorials in the black press in Durham and Raleigh frequently called for improvements in, if not an end to, the Jim Crow system.

White North Carolinians listened with concern to the outbursts of black protests after the War, but they managed to preserve both white supremacy and the myth that black North Carolinians were contented with legal segregation and Jim Crow. North Carolina's postwar reconsideration of racial relations and racial policy took place in the context of the nationwide "Red Scare" between 1918 and 1921, touched off by fears of communist and foreign subversion.

North Carolina did not experience the waves of abuse of black veterans and lynching of black men that swept across the South and, with one notable exception, was spared the race riots that erupted elsewhere in the country at the end of the war. The exception occurred in Winston-Salem on November 17, 1918. A white female textile worker claimed she had been raped and beaten by black man. Police apprehended a suspect; an out-of-town vagrant, who protested his innocence. As was the pattern in such cases across a South, a white lynch mob converged on the jail intent on meting out their own rough justice. The beleaguered constables found an unusual and unwanted ally in a contingent of armed black men who rushed in to fend off the white mob. In the ensuing riot, five men were killed and several black businesses and homes were destroyed. The Forsyth County Home Guard, bolstered by Home Guards from around the state, intervened after a few days to restore order. The black vagrant survived and was proven innocent.

For the most part, after World War I, local race relations and racial policy in North Carolina were determined, as they had been before the war, by the "better classes" of both races; black and white businessmen, educators, and civic leaders who would meet to ensure that the channels of civil communication and white philanthropy remained open, while the underlying structure of segregation and discrimination remained intact. It would take another world war in the 1940s to widen the cracks in that foundation and the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s to tear down the edifice of segregation, discrimination and disfranchisement. (For more on the African American community and race relations in North Carolina between World War I and II, see "The North Carolina Experience" African Americans/20th Century & Race Relations.)

Sources: Sarah McCulloh Lemmon, North Carolina's Role in the First World War (Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, 1966); Jeffery J. Crow, A History of African Americans in North Carolina (Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, 1998); and Joanne Glenn, "The Winston-Salem Riot of 1918" (Masters Thesis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1979). For the national picture during the war, see Mark Ellis, Race, War, and Surveillance: African Americans and the United States Government During World War I (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001).

III. Educational Institutions

World War I greatly influenced North Carolina's elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities. The schools contributed mightily to the war effort in several important ways. In a 1917 editorial, one unidentified teacher asked "What Shall We Teachers Do?" to help defeat Germany. The answer was to encourage students of all ages to collect scrap metal, food, bandages, and other raw materials, to sell war bonds, and to plant gardens and then can the produce. In 1917, the Department of Public Instruction devoted the annual North Carolina Day to"Thrift, Conservation, and Patriotism."

Many male collegians and young teachers became soldiers. At the beginning of the war, the U.S. provost marshal general had wanted to exempt college students from service, but Governor Thomas W. Bickett, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Walter M. Clark, and other North Carolina officials strongly opposed such exemption. Instead, most of the state's collegians, such as UNC freshman Paul Eliot Green, joined the Students' Army Training Corp. They drilled on campus and studied Military Science before departing for officer training.

The war dominated the curriculum and the daily lives of male and female teachers and students for the duration of the conflict. In 1917, Robert Herring Wright, president of the East Carolina Teachers Training School, and one unidentified teacher urged their readers to indoctrinate their young charges in the superiority of America's democratic civilization over German despotism. Teachers also set the lessons to song with "Patriotic Music in the Grades". Children sang classics, such as "America," "Yankee Doodle," and the "Star-Spangled Banner," but they also learned "La Marseillaise", the French national anthem, as well as popular new songs, such as "We're Going Over," "Over There," "What Kind of An American Are You?" and "If I had a Son for Each Star in Old Glory." Mabel Tate and Naomi Neal note that North Carolina's women's colleges also devoted themselves to the war effort.

Few schools were transformed by the war more than the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 1915 and 1916, pacifism and opposition to American involvement had widespread support on campus. Glenn Hutchinson notes, however that sentiments rapidly changed once the United States declared war on Germany. In January 1917, Hutchinson recalls, "344 students signed a petition asking that military training be given; and by the close of March, more than 500 men were receiving military instruction, the space behind South Building being lighted to allow night drilling." By the end of the year, Hutchinson argued, "The University was completely enveloped by war hysteria and began to scream and beat its breast."

Seemingly every aspect of campus life was altered by the war, as the many photographs in the 1918 and 1919 editions of The Yackety Yack, the college's student yearbook, illustrate. Football rallies where students once chanted "Beat Trinity" became Liberty Bond drives where they chanted "Beat Germany." Instructors dropped German from the curriculum and replaced it with Military French. Student-soldiers turned the campus into a maze of trenches and barbed wire, and the entire town of Chapel Hill was the scene of massive pitched "battles."

On an even grander scale, in 1917, University President Edward Kidder Graham and student Albert Coates conceived a plan detailing "The University Purpose in War Education". They proposed "to establish in every community which desires it, extension centers. . . which will be devoted to an intensive study of 'the causes of the war, the practical relation of every American citizen to the war, the immediate necessity of winning the war, American aims and ideals in the war, preparation for material, social, and spiritual reconstruction after the war.'" The University provided communities across the state with lectures, correspondence courses, and speakers. (The experience apparently impressed Coates greatly. In 1931 he founded the Institute--now School--of Government at the University in Chapel Hill, and served as its director for the next thirty years. Today, the School is the largest and most diversified university-based local government training, consulting, and research organization in the United States.)

Tar Heels at home did more than simply prepare for war. Eleven faculty members at the University of North Carolina left for service in France, joining Paul Green and other students who interrupted their studies for combat. By the end of the war, Green, Robert March Hanes, William Bradley Umstead, and 2,237 other UNC alumni and students were in the military. Fifty-six of them joined the University's long list of wartime casualties dating back to the Mexican-American War.

Despite the changes caused during the war, life quickly returned to normal at UNC and North Carolina's other schools, colleges, and universities after the Armistice, and memories of the war experience dimmed as the years passed. In the late 1930s, however, Glenn Hutchinson was probably not the only Tar Heel who looked back on the Great War for "lessons from campus history" as America saw Europe on the verge of another military conflagration.

Sources: Michael Easterly, "The Making of a Modern University: World War I, Public Service, and the Transformation of the University of North Carolina," (Honors essay, University of North Carolina, 1993) and William D. Snider, Light on the Hill (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992).

IV. Mobilizing Resources

Supplying the American and Allied armed forces with armaments, equipment, provisions, and other supplies required a massive commitment of finances and raw materials. American agriculture and industry focused on increasing productivity, while civilians conserved scarce resources in support of the war effort. According to historian Sarah M. Lemmon, North Carolina had 198 different categories of war industries, ranging from shipbuilding in Wilmington, to munitions plants in Raleigh and other piedmont cities, to textiles, to strategic minerals in the foothills, to aircraft timbers and wagon wheels produced in the mountains. Mobilizing all these resources in support of the war effort required not just individual service but also centralized coordination at the federal and state level.

Because the process of mobilization and its results is such a large topic, this introduction has been divided into four subsections. The list below contains quick links to those sections. "Government Agencies" discusses the role of the federal government and the state and local Councils of Defense that coordinated the war effort at home. "Charitable Organizations" records the contribution of private groups, especially the Red Cross, in raising money, gathering up scarce materials, and caring for soldiers, especially those who were wounded. "Finances" details the government's approach to wartime finance through taxation and Liberty and Victory Bond drives. "Raw Materials" relates to the production and conservation of food, fuel, textiles, and other war items. Within each of these subsections there is also some discussion of the lasting effects of the war on North Carolina and the country as a whole.

Government Agencies

Wartime demands did not replace private enterprise with socialism, but they did force a significant increase of government intervention in the economy and private lives of citizens. This expansion was gradual and required the forging of a close partnership between government and industry. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson established a Council of National Defense. This panel of experts from business, finance, and labor functioned in a purely advisory capacity. After U.S. entry in the war in 1917, however, the increased demand for war material made both government and industry willing to consider centralized coordination of production.

In July 1917, Congress created the War Industries Board (WIB). The President soon gave it the power to rank manufacturers so that those most essential to the war received raw materials first. The WIB also set prices, wages, and production standards. The WIB was abolished when the war ended, but the federal government later expanded on this model of government-industry cooperation and coordination during the Great Depression with the National Recovery Administration and during World War II with the Office of War Production and a host of new agencies.

State governments worked closely with the WIB and other federal agencies. They also replicated the federal model of wartime production. Each state had a branch of the National Council of Defense. Governor Thomas W. Bickett organized the North Carolina Council of Defense in May 1917 to coordinate the statewide crusade, in conjunction with county councils. The county councils did not exercise any regulatory control over agriculture or industry. Rather, they worked with farmers and mill owners on a voluntary basis to maximize the production of food, textiles, and other goods needed by the Allied armed forces. As Archibald Henderson notes, the state council's Home Services Section also provided relief to over 22,000 destitute families during the war, particularly families of servicemen. Neither the state nor the county councils received public money. All staff members, mostly women, were volunteers. A group of wealthy North Carolinians funded the state and local councils' operating budgets.

In addition to profits from war production, defense manufacturers benefited from generous government loans and credits extended to them through the new War Finance Corporation (WFC). North Carolinian Angus McLean served on the WFC board and also became Assistant U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. Taxes partly funded the WFC's subsidies, but Treasury bonds, sold in nationwide Liberty Loan drives, financed the bulk of the war effort. (For more on North Carolina's role in financing the war, see the Finance section of this introduction.)

The government exercised considerable direct authority over the production and distribution of food, fuel and other vital raw materials. In the most extreme case, the federal government temporarily took control of the railroad lines in the winter of 1917-18 and the telegraph lines in the summer of 1918. Both of these were emergency measures necessary to fend off shutdowns of the nation's transportation and communication systems. Short of a crisis, however, the Lever Food and Fuel Act of 1917 gave the President near dictatorial powers to regulate the nation's farms, coal mines, and the industries that would consume these resources. The National Food Administration and the National Fuel Administration and their North Carolina counterparts rejected strict rationing in favor of higher prices to stimulate production. They also relied on patriotic appeals to citizens and workers in and owners of nondefense industries to voluntarily conserve food and fuel that could be diverted to the war effort. (For more on the production and conservation of food and fuel in North Carolina, see the Raw Materials section of this introduction.)

In addition to industrialists and farmers, organized labor was also an important partner in the war effort. Established unions, especially affiliates of the American Federation of Labor, signed a "no strike" pledge in exchange for promises of government protection of minimum wages, maximum hours, and the right to organize and bargain collectively. President Wilson instituted these protections by executive order in April 1918, creating the National War Labor Board (NWLB). North Carolina Supreme Court chief justice and liberal reformer Walter Clark served on the NWLB. The Board intervened repeatedly in several sectors of the economy, including North Carolina's tobacco and textile factories, to mediate disputes and help draw up new contracts, which increased the leverage of workers. The end of the war brought an abrupt end to the NWLB. Federal and state governments and industry reverted to their prewar, often antiunion, policies. Union continued to grow through the 1920s across the country, however, even in the staunchly antiunion Tar Heel state. In addition, the NWLB of World War I served as precedent for the permanent National Labor Relations Board created in 1935 during the New Deal.

North Carolina, like other states, created a Public Service Reserve, which was essentially a state-run employment service. Local Councils of Defense compiled lists of unemployed or underemployed laborers who for some reason had not been drafted. The Councils then summoned the workers to appear them, at which time they asked them to pitch in wherever a labor shortage existed. Thousands of Public Service Reservists, mainly men, but also women, reported for duty at farms and factories and to Army training camps in North Carolina where they built and maintained the facilities.

World War I represented a turning point in North Carolinians' and Americans' views on the proper role of government. In the short-term, the war represented the climax of the nationwide Progressive era regulatory impulse. By the time of World War I, Progressives had won federal legislation to restrain industry for the sake of competition, the interests of workers, and the safety of consumers. North Carolina Progressives and workers were largely unable to duplicate this success because the state's political leadership was closely wedded to the textile and tobacco industries. Before the war, the legislature kept corporate taxes low and only reluctantly passed limited restrictions on child labor. It also granted few rights to organized labor. (For more, see "The North Carolina Experience," Economics & Business section.) In the rest of the country, while the necessity of wartime mobilization required significant government coordination, in general, a cooperative partnership between government and capital replaced punitive regulation.

This does not mean that either the overall scope of bureaucracy or public expectations about the proper role of government necessarily returned to what they had been before the war. On balance, while Americans may have tired of wartime taxation and restrictions, by the end of the war, they had also come to accept and expect a greater role for government in their everyday lives. The question was not so much if the federal and state governments would be active, but rather in what areas and on whose behalf they would act. In the 1920s, while the federal government slashed the military budget, lowered taxes, and gave business a freer hand, it also created new subsidies and protective tariffs on imports to help American agriculture and industry, enforced the Eighteenth Amendment's prohibition on alcohol, and ratcheted up restrictions on immigration and political radicalism.

During the War, North Carolina's state government also took on new responsibilities aside from managing the war effort. Many of these initiatives continued into the 1920s. Governor Bickett convinced the legislature to strengthen the state Board of Charities and Public Welfare and enhance public education by lengthening the school term, increasing teacher salaries, and authorizing bonds for the construction of new schoolhouses and improving the state's colleges and universities. Bickett and other former Progressives tried with less success to improve the lives of prisoners, the mentally ill, and the rural poor. (For more, see "The North Carolina Experience" Public Charities & Prisons section.)

Bickett's greatest achievement was in the area of tax reform. In 1919 and 1920, the legislature ordered the reassessment of all real and personal property under new, more uniform and equitable standards. The state also reserved for counties the right to levy property taxes while expanding state revenue through new income, license taxes, and other sources. Progressives and farmers organized a Good Roads Movement during Bickett's term, though he opposed large new bonds for road construction. Bickett's successors, Governors Cameron Morrison and Angus McLean, however, championed road building and other new public policies to benefit the state in the 1920s.

Charitable Organizations

North Carolina's private charitable organizations helped federal and state agencies sustain the comprehensive and well-coordinated campaign to support the war. These organizations did more than the government could on its own. They raised funds, collected raw materials, sent care packages to the doughboys, cared for the wounded in stateside hospitals, and dispatched volunteers to France to tend to Allied and American troops and the war-weary civilian population. The outbreak of war inspired a wave of volunteerism in North Carolina, but in so doing, it added greater urgency and legitimacy to a decades-long Progressive social reform crusade. Since the turn of the century, middle and upper class white men and women in North Carolina and elsewhere, fearing the consequences of modernization and urbanization, had devoted themselves to the eradication of vice and the edification of the population. Tar Heel reformers cracked down on prostitution and gambling in the booming cities. They wrote alcohol prohibition into state law in 1908, a decade before it became a nationwide constitutional mandate, and pushed for improvements in public education. (For more, see "The North Carolina Experience" Religion & Reform section.)

Middle class white women had been the backbone of prohibition and public education movements in North Carolina. They did the bulk of the charitable work during the war. On the one hand, such charitable work was consistent with the turn of the century gender expectations, which viewed women as natural "mothers" of society. On the other hand, wartime service allowed women to assume more publicly visible roles of authority and thus stretch traditional boundaries. (For more, see The Home Front/Women section.)

The Red Cross was the principle wartime charitable organization in North Carolina, as in the rest of the country. Clara Barton, a former Civil War nurse and international philanthropist, had founded the American branch of International Red Cross in 1881. The Red Cross's mission was to care for the wounded and sick in times of war and natural disaster. Upper class women joined the ranks of the Red Cross prior to World War I, but the organization became a truly powerful force with the outbreak of the conflict. As did many other states, North Carolina established its state and first county Red Cross chapters in 1916. By the end of the war, North Carolina boasted 750 Red Cross branches and auxiliaries, with 250,000 members. Most of these volunteers were from the economic and social elite of their communities. They were able to contribute time and money and had the prestige to persuade others to do the same. The Red Cross also received a boost from government propaganda posters exhorting viewers to "Help the Red Cross". (For more Red Cross posters, see Propaganda Posters/War Work.) The North Carolina Red Cross raised over $2 million in individual and corporate donations in 1917. The Red Cross also encouraged the purchase of Liberty Bonds.

With its army of well-funded volunteers, the North Carolina Red Cross engaged in a flurry of activity during the war. Mabel Tate and Naomi Neal provide a statistical record of Red Cross activities for each county and for the state as a whole in 1917. In addition, Annie Sutton Cameron notes the frenetic pace that the Orange County chapter maintained. Across the state, the Red Cross sewed and collected underwear, socks, surgical dressings, and other items for fighting men, wounded soldiers, and the beleaguered civilian populations of France and Belgium. (The official tabulation was 2,332,480 dressings, garments, and miscellaneous items.) At North Carolina's two Army training camps and its embarkation centers, Red Cross volunteers fed and entertained young recruits. A few women Red Cross volunteers even went to France.

Women also helped organize North Carolina's other main wartime charitable organization, the War Camp Community Service (WCCS). The North Carolina WCCS was a branch of the national body founded in 1917. Although a private group, the WCCS worked closely with the War Department to look after the moral, spiritual, and educational well-being of young boys who were far from home for the first time and subject to many temptations, including liquor, gambling and sex. This was true while they were new recruits undergoing stateside training, but especially once they reached France.

The WCCS had branches in most of North Carolina's cities. It was particularly strong in Charlotte and Fayetteville, given their proximity to Camp Greene and Camp Bragg respectively, the state's two Army training camps. Raleigh, Wilmington, and Southport also established large WCCS units to serve troops embarking by train and ship for overseas duty. The WCCS organized chaperoned dances, sports leagues, lectures, sing-alongs, movies, church services, and other activities for the troops. WCCS volunteers also looked after the troops in France, encouraging families to write their boys uplifting letters and by setting up stateside morale boosting programs. As with the Red Cross, propaganda posters promoted the WCCS's efforts, with such titles as "Home Hospitality: The Spirit of War Camp Community Service" and "Yanks in Germany Want More Books".


One of the main challenges for charitable organizations and government agencies was to raise the enormous sums of money needed to fund the war effort. During the war, the United States spent $35.5 billion, or 9 percent of the Gross Domestic Product to pay farmers and industrialists in North Carolina and elsewhere for everything the American and Allied Armies needed. In part, the revenue came from state and federal taxes, especially the federal income tax, recently authorized by the Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1913. Wartime taxation, however, only accounted for one-third of the $35.5 billion budget.

Civilian purchases of U.S. Treasury Liberty and Victory Bonds and War Savings Stamps accounted for the other two thirds of revenue. The Treasury issued the bonds and stamps and used the proceeds to provide loans to defense-related industries. Generating funds through bond sales rather than taxation seemed more expeditious and politically palatable. It also gave Americans a way of directly contributing to the war effort. The Treasury sponsored national Liberty Bond drives and recruited sports heroes, movie stars, and the "Four Minute Men" to extol the virtues of Liberty Bonds. In North Carolina, everyone from Governor Bickett, to schoolteachers and students, to wives and mothers, became Liberty Bond hucksters.

The most effective advertisement, however, were the propaganda posters promoting bonds, with patriotic images and slogans such as "For Home and Country" and "Halt the Hun". Americans clearly got the message. Private individuals, banks, and small businesses purchased more than $21 billion worth of bonds and savings stamps between 1917 and 1918. North Carolinians contributed close to $140 million to that total. Francis Henry Fries and Archibald Henderson provide detailed statistics on North Carolina's fundraising efforts.

The government's approach to finance met the immediate goal of funding the war, but it also had two unintended economic consequences. First, relying on public borrowing in the form of government bonds, rather than taxation, contributed to the inflationary spiral that plagued the American economy during and immediately after the war. This was exactly the opposite of what government planners had hoped would happen. They theorized that if citizens invested in bonds rather than buying consumer items, that would help prevent shortages of goods and dampen inflationary pressures. In practice, however, private citizens and businesses used bonds as collateral to obtain bank loans. As a result, demand for scarce consumer goods increased. The country's money supply ballooned, a sure recipe for inflation, skyrocketing prices, and devalued currency. William Henry Glasson discusses this problem as it applied to North Carolina and the country as a whole. The second and most lasting effect of the system of wartime finance was to accustom North Carolinians and other Americans to a permanently expanded federal budget and to the income tax rather than excise or consumption taxes as the means to pay for it. (For more on postwar tax reform in North Carolina and the changing role of state and federal government, see the "Government Agencies" section of this introduction.)

Raw Materials

Since the Napoleonic era, generals have quipped that an army runs on its stomach. In World War I, military planners added coal and gasoline to the menu. Indeed, food and fuel topped the list of raw materials that North Carolinians had to produce and conserve to sustain the American, British, and French war machines. The military also consumed tons of Tar Heel textile goods in the form of uniforms, socks, blankets, tents, and medical dressings. All the while, the civilian population of America also had to be fed, clothed, and kept warm.

Managing the supply of food and fuel were such important tasks that the federal and state government came to exercise more direct control over those commodities than they did with other elements of the mobilization effort. In August 1917, Congress passed the Lever Food and Fuel Act, which gave President Wilson near dictatorial authority, had he chosen to exercise it, to regulate supplies and prices of food and fuel. It also permitted him to compel civilian and industrial rationing of food and fuel.

Wilson delegated regulatory responsibility to the new U.S. Food Administration and the U.S. Fuel Administration, both of which had branches in every state, including North Carolina. With few exceptions, the federal and state Food and Fuel administrations preferred to rely on voluntary cooperation by farmers and industry. The government also encouraged the general population to join in the patriotic emphasis on production and conservation. Propaganda poster with titles like "The Seeds of Victory Insure the Fruits of Peace" and "Uncle Sam Need That Extra Shovelful" convinced Americans that by planting a garden of Victory cabbage or saving a shovelfull of coal they could be a vital part of the war effort.

This approach worked well in North Carolina, especially in terms of the food supply. John Paul Lucas, became the state Food Administrator, after having served as the Executive Secretary of the North Carolina Food Conservation Commission. (Lucas' report included here gives an overview of the state's efforts during the first year of the war.) Full-scale rationing was limited to sugar, and this did not happen until the last months of the war. Food service businesses using more than three barrels of flour per month also had to be licensed. On balance, however, the emphasis was on a voluntary "Feed Yourself" campaign aimed at farmers and other citizens.

Along with large farmers, amateur gardeners planted 56,000 plots across the state. School children formed Corn, Pig, and Poultry Clubs. Sellie Robert Winters notes the impressive results of this agricultural bonanza. Food crop production, as opposed to cotton and tobacco, increased four fold between 1917 and 1918. For example, North Carolina's importation of grains such as corn was nearly eliminated, while its raised 100,000,000 pounds of pork for export. Cotton planters and tobacco farmers also boosted their yields and their profits during the war, prompted by high demand from textile mills and tobacco factories.

In addition to growing more food, North Carolinians learned to preserve comestibles by preserving them and by substituting less expensive alternatives for scarce ingredients. In 1917, the public schools devoted the annual North Carolina Day to "Thrift, Conservation, and Patriotism." Institutional cafeterias, such as the one at East Carolina Teacher's Training School, went to great lengths to eliminate waste and reuse garbage. At home, women dried, pickled, and canned all the produce. They also created "Liberty" versions of breads, cakes, and other creations that substituted molasses and honey for sugar, oatmeal for flour, and lard for butter. Nannie Jeter, Martha Armstrong, and other authors provided housewives with advice and sample recipes to facilitate substitution.

North Carolina did not feel the pinch of wartime fuel shortages as severely as the some of the Northeastern states, partly because of the Tar Heel State's relatively mild climate and lack of heavy industry. Nevertheless, promoting coal and gasoline conservation was still an important responsibility for the state Fuel Administration, headed by A. W. McAlister and later R. M. Norfleet. During the winter of 1917-18, cold weather, a coal shortage, and a near breakdown of the east coast rail system combined to threatened a disaster for the national economy and the war effort. In response, the Fuel Administration closed all nonwar industries, including many factories and businesses in North Carolina, between January and March 1918 in order to save coal and to free up rail cars. The Fuel Administration also restricted the use of electric signs. McAlister and Norfleet, like their fellow commanders on the food front, preferred to rely on patriotic persuasion to enlist recruits into the battle to save coal. McAlister distributed a pamphlet of Twelve Questions and Answers to families across the state explaining how to conserve coal by burning wood instead and fixing furnaces and radiators. Parents found similar messages on small tags attached to the family coal shovel. The reminders had been left their by their children.

Sources: General: Sarah McCulloh Lemmon, North Carolina's Role in the First World War (Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, 1966) and Robert H. Zieger, America's Great War: World War I and the American Experience (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2000). On the role of the state and federal government, see also William J. Breen "The North Carolina Council of Defense during World War I, 1917-1918," North Carolina Historical Review, 50: 1 (Jan. 1973), pp. 1-31; Sandra Sue Horton, "The Political Career of Thomas Walter Bickett" (Masters thesis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1965). On the War Finance Corporation and Angus McLean's service on it, see Charles Gilbert, American Financing of World War I (Westport: Greenwood Publishing, 1970). Angus McLean Papers are housed at the Southern Historical Collection. On the War Labor Board and Walter Clark's involvement, see Valerie Jean Conner, The National War Labor Board: Stability, Social Justice, and the Voluntary State in World War I (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1983). For more on the history of the Red Cross in America and North Carolina, visit the North Red Cross's home page ( For more on the system of wartime finance and its effect on North Carolina, see and B. U. Ratchford, "The Public Finances of North Carolina Since 1920," South Atlantic Quarterly 27 (January 1928): 1-15.

V. Patriotism & Politics

After April 1917, there was little public debate in North Carolina or elsewhere in the U.S. about American involvement in the war. This was due in large part to the time and energy politicians, public officials, and other civic leaders devoted to instilling patriotic spirit in the citizenry and rooting out suspected dissent. The addresses, editorials, and especially the propaganda posters included in this section and elsewhere in "North Carolinians and the Great War" are imbued with patriotic fervor. The most immediate aim of patriotic messages, of course, was to exhort North Carolinians to contribute to the war effort, either by serving in the armed forces or by marshalling financial and material resources.

In an August 1917 speech, "How War Came to America and What it Means to Us", North Carolina Congressman James Pou expressed sentiments shared by other politicians, poster artists, and song writers. To Pou and the other propagandists, World War I was a test of American character. They equated North Carolinians' wartime service with the valor displayed by their Revolutionary and Confederate forbearers. State Senator Jeter Connelly Pritchard claimed that this was "a war in which every American who has red blood in his veins and who honestly desires to safeguard his own Government should be interested, and he should be willing to support it with the same zeal and courage which actuated Washington and other Revolutionary heroes when the foundations of our Government were being made secure." The members of the Student Army Training Corps at the University of North Carolina felt a strong bond with Civil War veterans, which they expressed in a photograph for the 1918 campus annual, titled "The Spirit of '61 and the Spirit of '17". Governor Thomas Walter Bickett, a skilled orator, gave many speeches in which he made the war a contest between American democratic civilization and the despotic German Kaiser and the brutal German "Hun."

The propaganda posters made the bluntest appeals to nationalist sentiment and anti-German stereotypes. One poster entitled "The Spirit of '18" directly linked the Revolutionary Spirit of 1776 and the world war. Another poster offered a stark choice between "German Slavery or Liberty Bonds." A third contrasted "Civilization vs. Barbarism." (For more on the government's role in shaping public opinion during the war, see The Home Front/Mobilizing Resources and the Propaganda Posters sections.) Patriotism, in whatever form it was expressed, left little room for political bickering. North Carolina was already a solidly Democratic state, but the demands of war overshadowed differences between factions within the Democratic majority. Even North Carolina Republican leaders, such as F. O. Carver, argued that his party should set aside partisanship and support the Democrats, including President Wilson, North Carolina's congressional delegation, and Governor Bickett. In the legislature, Bickett enjoyed solid support for wartime measures but also for other items on his Progressive agenda. They included strengthening the state Board of Charities and Public Welfare and reforming the tax structure. Bickett also received strong support for his efforts aimed at enhancing public education by lengthening the school term, increasing teacher salaries, and authorizing bonds for the construction of new school houses and for improving the state's colleges and universities.

Beneath the patriotic zeal, however, there was a fear of enemy subversion and espionage that sometimes verged on the paranoid. North Carolina was swept up in the nationwide "Red Scare" between 1918 and 1921. The outbreak of war, closely followed by Bolshevik revolution in Russia in 1917, built on existing conservatism and inspired a crusade against foreigners, pacifists and opponents of the war, political radicals, and organized labor. The Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 gave government the power to censor the mails, suppress the media, and imprison a wide range of suspected radicals. The American Civil Liberties Union formed in 1917 in response to the crackdown. It challenged in the courts some restrictions, resulting in several important legal precedents in the area of free speech.

In North Carolina, local Councils of Defense, such as Orange County's, helped law enforcement authorities round up draft evaders, also known as "slackers", and provide security against potential sabotage at defense plants and railroads. The vigilance extended to anyone of German descent who voiced opposition to the war or in any way seemed less than "100 percent American." Politicians such as Jeter Pritchard sanctioned such repression when they pronounced that after America had declared war, "further discussion of the question is extremely harmful and should not be tolerated." One eager loyalist even wrote Governor Bickett to inquire "Have I as a private citizen the legal right to shoot a man who utters slanders and seditious threats about the President and the government?"

The only North Carolinians who were authorized to provide armed resistance against potential domestic insurrection, however, were the members of the county Home Guard. Fortunately, the closest North Carolina came to "harboring the enemy" was when three thousand German sailors were unlucky enough to be in American ports when the war broke out. They spent the duration of the conflict in a model prison camp outside of Asheville.

Two groups of North Carolinians proved to be more contentious during the war than the German POWs. One was the 5, 612 men who either evaded the draft or deserted the service after they had been inducted. The hunt for deserters even led to bloodshed in Ashe County in 1918. (For more on evasion and desertion, see the Introduction to The Soldiers' Experience.) A second source of unrest lay in labor-management relations. Organized labor had made little headway in North Carolina since 1900, a year when textile mill owners, backed by the state militia, crushed a series of strikes. Seventeen years later, the war seemed an inopportune time for unions to disrupt production in order to fight for better wages and working conditions. With the exception of a small strike at the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad in Wilmington in 1917, North Carolina workers stayed on the job. Nevertheless, Jeter Pritchard and other leaders equated union activity with lawlessness and sedition. Only in the tobacco factories of Winston-Salem did workers manage to negotiate new, more favorable contracts during the war. In 1919, fears about postwar layoffs and wage cuts sparked a wave of textile strikes in Charlotte, and mill owners forced a reluctant Governor Bickett to intervene on their behalf.

Sources: Sarah McCulloh Lemmon, North Carolina's Role in the First World War (Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, 1966) and Robert H. Zieger, America's Great War: World War I and the American Experience (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2000). On North Carolina's German POWs, see Jacqueline Burgin Painter and Jonathan William Horstman, The German Invasion of Western North Carolina: a Pictorial History (Asheville, N.C.: Biltmore Press, 1992). On the effect of the war on textile workers and unions, see Jacquelyn Hall, et al, Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000). On the nationwide Red Scare, see Robert K. Murray, Red Scare: a Study in National Hysteria, 1919-1920 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1955).

VI. Women

By the time of the World War, North Carolina women were exercising more economic and social power and enjoying more legal rights than their mothers had, but they remained second-class citizens. Working class black and white women had been toiling alongside men in the factories since the turn of the century. Other women had joined the ranks of public school teachers until they outnumbered male teachers, though the salaries of teachers dropped as the gender balance shifted. A few women, like the mother of Kiffin Yates Rockwell, North Carolina's most famous combat aviator, were also successful businesswomen and professionals. In the 1910s, however, most middle and upper class married women still remained at home, where they managed the household and the family budget and were thus influential decision makers. Before the war, advertisers often targeted female consumers, while during the war, public campaigns to conserve scarce resources or raise money were often directed at women. (For more, see the The Home Front/Mobilizing Resources and Propaganda Posters sections.)

Since the turn of the century, many middle and upper class women also had sufficient economic and social status to join--and in some cases lead--civic and religious organizations that pursued ambitious reform agendas. Tar Heel women were in the forefront of the temperance movement and then the subsequent prohibition campaigns against alcohol. They also strove to improve the state's educational system. On the one hand, women were assuming public leadership positions that stretched the traditional boundaries of their duties as wives and mothers. On the other hand, middle class society sanctioned such reform activism because it seemed only to be expanding women's natural role of nurturing mothers to include the larger "family" of their community.

Along the way, however, some North Carolina women began to set their reformist sights, not on other "family members", but on themselves. Specifically, they realized that they needed political power to push government to improve the status of women and implement other elements of reform. Like prohibition, the idea of women's suffrage had been debated in North Carolina and elsewhere before the war, but the outbreak of military conflict and the importance of women to the war effort elevated prohibition and suffrage to the forefront of the national agenda. (For more background on women in 20th century North Carolina, see "The North Carolina Experience" section on Women/Clubs & Activism.)

World War I replicated, in expanded form, the pattern of the Progressive era, in both stretching the boundaries of women's responsibilities while confining that new activism within traditional gender roles. The federal government recognized the potential of the civilian "womanpower reserve" and began to actively recruit it. Propaganda posters targeted females at a young age, with clarion calls such as "For Girls must work that men may fight: Y.W.C.A". In response, Tar Heel women became a vital part of the war effort.

Unlike some of their northern sisters, middle and upper class leaders of North Carolina's women's clubs and reform organizations did not oppose American intervention or support the peace movements before the war. In fact, by the time the United States entered the conflict in 1917, Madelon Battle Ashcock, an Asheville native and wife of a British major-general, had been serving for three years on the frontlines as a nurse with the American Field Service. After 1917, 12,000 women across the country volunteered with the Army Nursing Corps. Of these, 195 were North Carolinians, including Elizabeth Herbert Smith Taylor. Her diary records both the pleasantries of social gatherings between officers and the grisly effects of modern warfare. North Carolina women also volunteered with the War Camp Community Service (WCCS) in France to tend to tired and homesick soldiers in rest camps. Two North Carolina women even served as yeomen aboard a Navy ship. (The Navy was the only branch of the armed forces to form women's auxiliaries during the war.)

At home, women filled the ranks of the WCCS, the Red Cross, and other charitable organizations. Mabel Tate and Naomi Neal and Archibald Henderson compiled comprehensive, statewide and county level surveys of women's wartime activism. In addition to their service in the Red Cross and the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), Henderson notes that women in the Home Service Section of the North Carolina Council of Defense provided assistance to over 22,000 destitute families during the war, particularly families of servicemen.

Even more important to the war effort was the fact that thousands of average housewives diverted part of the family budget to buy war bonds. Many also followed Martha H. French's advice on how to save precious cloth and Nannie F. Jeter's suggestions on how to "Conserve Food and Keep Down Waste." Finally, there was the unseen army of white and black women who continued to toil in North Carolina's textile and tobacco factories. Some of them also took on new jobs and responsibilities temporarily vacated by men. (For more, see The Home Front/Mobilizing Resources subsection.)

Many prominent white North Carolina women also assumed influential leadership positions in private groups and government agencies during the war. Laura Holmes Reilley of Charlotte, who prior to the war was already a national officer in the General Federation of Women's Clubs, became chair of the Woman's Committee of the state Council of National Defense. Reilley's committee coordinated all women's activities, which amounted to much of the war work done in North Carolina. Kate M. Herring served as director of publicity for the North Carolina War Savings Committee. Women also chaired women's committees of the county Councils of Defense, as well as branches of the Red Cross, WCCS, and other organizations. Annie Sutton Cameron records one example of such local "women's work" as part of her duties as the official Historian of the Orange County Council.

Cameron was not able to reflect on the larger question of whether or not the war seriously challenged gender roles during the conflict and its impact into the 1920s. With the benefit of historical perspective, however, three conclusions seem clear. First, as in nineteenth century wars, North Carolina women during World War I were motivated primarily by necessity and patriotism, not by a more modern sense of "feminist liberation."

Second, with the exception of female factory labor, most of women's war work was confined to tasks that fit within their idealized roles as mothers--nursing troops, sewing bandages, conserving food, etc. . . . In addition, expressions of patriotism often framed the war in traditional terms of masculinity and femininity and romantic love. Tar Heel boys were stirred by the appeals to masculine heroism, as illustrated by recruiting posters like "Wanted: Husky Young Americans" or "Tell That to the Marines". Posters such as the "Spirit of America" presented Lady Liberty in a highly feminized, even sexualized form, while "Home Hospitality" depicted an idealized matronly figure tending to her "boys". Judge Robert Winston carried on the Southern tradition of equating war with a grand romantic adventure when he told his audience of female students at St. Mary's College in Raleigh:

"These young men will die, if need be, to save you young women from worse than hell. True, they are fighting for their country and are every inch patriots; but, after all, dear young women, it is for you, and you, and you, that they fight. Behind every bayonet, as it flashes in the sunshine of France and buries itself in the bowels of some savage German, is the stimulating memory of you, the girl he left behind. And the honor and glory of being thought worthy of you--the thought that you love and honor him--will nerve and sustain him to the end. But one flutter of your handkerchief, and he will storm the ramparts of hell."

On the French battlefields, however, the doughboys discovered that they were indeed storming the ramparts of a man-made hell, and the effort seemed anything but heroic. (For more, see The Soldiers' Experience.)

Third, while the war experience left a lasting impression on North Carolina women and gender relations, it was neither as profound as some young Tar Heel women hoped for at the time nor as significant as what some other parts of the country experienced in the 1920s. In 1918, Mabel Tate and Naomi Neal, two students at the state's women's college in Greensboro predicted: "The achievement of American women in the world war of 1917 will stand in no shadowy and uncertain outline against the background of the history that the future generations will read; for woman's share in the nation's task in this gigantic struggle for the freedom of the races is to mark a new era, both in the conduct of the war and in the history of the woman movement."

The war's greatest contribution to the nationwide "woman movement" was in helping create new attitudes toward the role of women in public life. This helped secure the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920 granting white women the legal right to vote. The North Carolina General Assembly, however, was not moved by arguments that women's wartime service proved their worth as citizens, and the legislature did not officially ratify the amendment until 1971. In the intervening years, Tar Heel women had the right to vote, but they did not do so in large numbers in the 1920s and had little effect on North Carolina elections. Finally, despite wartime acceleration of state and federal government activism, the Progressive movement lost rather than gained ground after the war, leaving many women reformers without a public stage. (For more, see "The North Carolina Experience," Politics & Government, Suffrage and Twentieth Century subsections.)

In the 1920s, the now familiar figure of the flamboyant flapper burst onto the scene and into our historical imagination, but the image did not fit most American women, including those who lived in North Carolina. The flapper, a young girl, with cropped hair and slinky dress, smoking a cigarette or sipping from a hip flask of illegal liquor, listening to hot jazz music while in the company of a young man, symbolized a youthful postwar generation's revolt against gender roles and sexual propriety. The flapper was one of the most sensational parts of the "Roaring Twenties," but only a small percentage of the female population found the new fashions and scandalous new behaviors appealing rather than appalling. This was especially true in rural Southern states such as North Carolina.

Sources: Sarah McCulloh Lemmon, North Carolina's Role in the First World War (Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, 1966) and Robert H. Zieger, America's Great War: World War I and the American Experience (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2000). For a general history, see Lettie Gavin, American Women in World War I: They Also Served (Niwot, Colo.: University Press of Colorado, 1997) and Susan Zeiger, In Uncle Sam's Service: Women Workers with the American Expeditionary Force, 1917-1919 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999).