Uncertain Future

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"Victory map," 1919. Status of women’s voting rights after World War I. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library via Digital Commonwealth.

Despite their willingness to answer the nation’s call during the war, the nation’s women and African Americans saw a return to second-class citizenship after conflict’s end.

While the suffrage movement won American women the right to vote in 1920, female citizens who had joined the ranks of laborers were pushed back into the home as soldiers took their places back in industry.

Soldiers abroad came home to discover the mass migration of African Americans from southern to northern states. This was not welcome news for many who maintained racist, segregationist views. Southerners resented the loss of cheap labor for farms and northerners retaliated against new competition for jobs in factories. In 1919, there were twenty-five major race riots and eighty-three lynchings. Soldiers returning home having fought for their country found a nation where human rights for all Americans were fundamentally denied.

The twentieth century would see a necessary uprising against the inequity for women and African Americans who had established themselves in larger roles on the home front during World War I, and who wanted their elevated roles in society to grow once peace returned.