Propaganda, Pressure, and Patriotism: The Texas State Council of Defense and the Politics of Gender, Race, and Class During World War I



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The Council of National Defense (CoND) formed in 1916, and the Woman’s Committee (WC) was created the following year. Together, they established a network of lower councils and WC divisions and units and became the primary network through which the American people learned about and participated in the First World War. The federal government wanted to reach every individual living in the United States so that he or she would be educated about the war, but also so that the federal government could track potential dangers, or resources including manpower and supplies. In May 1917, Governor James Ferguson appointed forty members to the Texas State Council of Defense (CoD). The Texas Division of the Woman’s Committee formed the next month. Both remained in operation until June 1919. In particular, the ethnic background and geographical ties to the South influenced State CoD members’ viewpoints regarding women, ethnic Germans, ethnic Mexicans, and African Americans to the point that they often reinforced prevalent gendered and stereotypical views. In Texas, ethnic and racial groups varied in ability to participate directly on Councils of Defense. Of the four groups examined here, ethnic Germans served most often on county CoDs. Conversely, only a few county CoDs included Tejano members. African Americans were not allowed council membership at the county level unless organized into auxiliary groups under direction of the Anglo county Council of Defense. By the time the war ended, the Texas State Council was in the process of forming a state-level African American auxiliary. Yet, for all of these groups, participation in patriotic activities was crucial to their goals of suffrage, civil rights, economic stability, and personal safety. They used the Council of Defense network to show their patriotism and to seek their rights as American citizens.



Council of Defense, Woman's Committee, Texas, World War I, First World War, Great War, Tejanos, African Americans, German Texans, Women