April 1917: the end of American neutrality in WWI

The Path to War

From OUP Blog by Michael S. Neiberg author of The Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern America:

Mary Roberts Rinehart’s journey since 1914 perhaps best represents the mood and the moment of April 1917. She had been one of the first Americans to urge a more assertive posture toward the war. Two years earlier, Rinehart had written that although she supported the United States taking a more active pro-Allied stance in the wake of the Lusitania tragedy, she was glad that her sons were then too young to fight if it came to war. She had hoped then that the war would end before she had to face the prospect of a son going off to fight the war that she had advocated.

Now, in 1917, her older son was old enough to fight, and Rinehart took to the pages of the Saturday Evening Post to explain not just her support for a war that nevertheless terrified her, but why she would not want her son to try to evade the military service that might kill him. “If in this war we allow the few to fight for us, then as a nation we have died and our ideals have died with us,” she wrote. “Though we win, if we all have not borne this burden alike, then do we all lose.”

Although her article was ostensibly about the roles of citizens and motherhood in time of war, it highlighted many of the themes that had been running through American thoughts on the war since 1914. Writing in late March 1917 she told her readers, “We are virtually at war. By the time this is published perhaps the declaration will have been made.” America, she believed, was “the last stand of the humanities on earth, the realization of a dream and the fulfillment of an ideal.”

Read the rest of the article at the OUP Blog

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