The Great War
“Our nation has just emerged from a war waged in the name of making the world safe for democracy, and ought in consistency to establish a real democracy at home.”
-- Resolution adopted at the annual convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association , 1919
When the United States entered World War I — the "Great War" — in 1917, Carrie Chapman Catt mobilized the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) — and, in turn, The Woman Citizen — to support the war effort. As portrayed on the pages of The Woman Citizen, women supported the war through their military work as nurses and relief workers. On the homefront they rationed food, sewed bandages, worked in munitions factories, and bought war bonds; as mothers, they sent their sons to the front. All of these heroic sacrifices and patriotic support for the war effort, argued the editorial pages, proved that these "win-the-war women" were loyal citizens worthy of the right to vote. Indeed, while wartime president Woodrow Wilson had initially waffled on his support for women’s suffrage, believing it to be an issue for the states to decide, the fact that women had been so supportive of the war effort is believed to have played a key role in Wilson’s eventual endorsement of a federal women’s suffrage amendment.
Considered mainstream and somewhat moderate, NAWSA contrasted with the National Woman’s Party (NWP), another women’s suffrage organization. With many pacifists, socialists, and other activists among its supporters, the NWP chose not to take a public stand on U.S. involvement in the war. Its members argued that the right to vote was not something that women needed to prove they deserved through loyalty and patriotism but that it was women’s natural right.