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Making Men Moral

Making Men Moral: Social Engineering During the Great War

Nancy K. Bristow
Copyright Date: 1996
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 322
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  • Book Info
    Making Men Moral
    Book Description:

    On May 29, 1917, Mrs. E. M. Craise, citizen of Denver, Colorado, penned a letter to President Woodrow Wilson, which concluded, We have surrendered to your absolute control our hearts' dearest treasures--our sons. If their precious bodies that have cost us so dear should be torn to shreds by German shot and shells we will try to live on in the hope of meeting them again in the blessed Country of happy reunions. But, Mr. President, if the hell-holes that infest their training camps should trip up their unwary feet and they be returned to us besotted degenerate wrecks of their former selves cursed with that hell-born craving for alcohol, we can have no such hope. Anxious about the United States' pending entry into the Great War, fearful that their sons would be polluted by the scourges of prostitution, venereal disease, illicit sex, and drink that ran rampant in the training camps, countless Americans sent such missives to their government officials. In response to this deluge, President Wilson created the Commission on Training Camp Activities to ensure the purity of the camp environment. Training camps would henceforth mold not only soldiers, but model citizens who, after the war, would return to their communities, spreading white, urban, middle-class values throughout the country. What began as a federal program designed to eliminate sexually transmitted diseases soon mushroomed into a powerful social force intent on replacing America's many cultures with a single, homogenous one. Though committed to the positive methods of education and recreation, the reformers did not hesitate to employ repression when necessary. Those not conforming to the prescribed vision of masculinity often faced exclusion from the reformers' idealized society, or sometimes even imprisonment. Social engineering ruled the day. Combining social, cultural, and military history and illustrating the deep divisions among reformers themselves, Nancy K. Bristow, with the aid of dozens of evocative photographs, here brings to life a pivotal era in the history of the U.S., revealing the complex relationship between the nation's competing cultures, progressive reform efforts, and the Great War.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2500-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
  6. CHAPTER ONE “An Invisible Armor”: The Progressive Social Vision and World War One
    (pp. 1-17)

    In the months following the United States declaration of war in World War One, President Woodrow Wilson and Secretary of War Newton D. Baker received a deluge of correspondence from anxious citizens like Galen Morton,¹ Americans concerned about the well-being of the men and boys destined to become America’s fighting force. The hazards these petitioners feared were not the risks of the battlefield but those of the training camp, the immoral influences popularly associated with military encampments and their surrounding communities. Letters, telegrams, and petitions poured in from every region of the country, pleading with the commander-in-chief and his assistant...

  7. CHAPTER TWO “Full-Orbed Moral Manhood”: Cultural Nationalism and the Creation of New Men and Women
    (pp. 18-53)

    In 1918, in a published communication to the American fighting men, President Woodrow Wilson relied on the imagery of a crusade in urging the soldiers to adopt new moral guidelines.¹ Engaged in a battle for freedom, the troops were “undertaking a great duty,” a duty that extended beyond the traditional martial responsibilities. The soldiers’ behavior would be “watched with the deepest interest and with the deepest solicitude,” not only by friends and family, “but by the whole nation besides.”² These observers, Wilson intimated, would measure the troops by their military successes and, as importantly, by their ability to embody a...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Reformers between Two Worlds: The Battle against Tradition and Working-Class Modernism
    (pp. 54-90)

    In September 1917 nearly 19,000 men reported for training at the new National Army installation opening at Camp Lewis, seventeen miles south of Tacoma, Washington, a midsized city with a population approaching 100,000. These troops were only the lead men in a parade of soldiers that would eventually expand the camp population to 44,000 by June 1918. Ray F. Carter, a CTCA representative in Tacoma, acknowledged his own uneasiness about the arrival of the new troops, as Secretary of War Baker had done in a more general way.¹ “Frankly, I am uneasy,” Carter began, “Tacoma has nothing to offer a...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Building a National Community: The Complexities of Gender
    (pp. 91-136)

    In 1918 the War Department released a feature length film entitledThe End of the Road.¹ Targeting women and girls and set in war-time America, the film follows the story of two childhood friends, Vera and Mary. The mood and the purpose of the film are established by an introductory statement that suggests: “Two Roads There Are in Life. One reaches upward toward the Land of Perfect Love. The other reaches down into the Dark Valley of Despair where the sun never shines.” In the film Mary follows this upward road, accepting advice and education on sexual matters from her...

  10. All photographs
    (pp. None)
  11. CHAPTER FIVE Repression and Resistance: African Americans and the Progressives’ National Community
    (pp. 137-178)

    In late June 1918 Julius Rosenwald of the Council of National Defense, a man nationally known for his philanthropic contributions to African American education, received a letter from Henry J. Dannenbaum, “a leading citizen” of Houston, Texas.¹ The letter expressed Dannenbaum’s concern regarding the dismal state of recreational facilities for African American soldiers training in San Antonio. “While in San Antonio last week I visited the Community House, a place on Alamo Plaza for the recreation of soldiers while in the city,” Dannenbaum began. “It is a most attractive place and hundreds of Uncle Sam’s boys were enjoying its facilities.”²...

  12. CHAPTER SIX The End of the Crusade: Demobilization and the Legacy of the CTCA
    (pp. 179-214)

    In July 1919, with the Commission on Training Camp Activities largely demobilized, Secretary of War Baker sent a letter to the commission’s chairman. “Have you ever thought,” Baker queried, “about what the Army would have been like if we had not at the very outset taken the steps we did take to keep it clean and contented?” Describing the commission’s success and acknowledging Fosdick’s contributions, Baker suggested,

    Nobody could have stopped America from building a great army, nor could all the Germans in the world have stopped our army from securing a military victory; but the character of the army...

  13. Epilogue
    (pp. 215-218)

    As we look back at the progressives from the standpoint of the 1990s, they appear at face value hopelessly old-fashioned and helplessly naive. Faced with a diversifying nation and frightened by the apparent chaos it fostered, progressives attempted to stabilize their society by controlling the forces of change. Lampooned even in their own day by the likes of H. L. Mencken, the progressives may seem the inhabitants of a distant time. On closer inspection, though, one cannot help but notice some startling similarities between this faraway world, peopled by the progressives, and our own. As the end of the century...

  14. Appendixes
    (pp. 221-242)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 243-290)
  16. Index
    (pp. 291-298)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 299-299)