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For the Boys Over There

The Great War came to an end at eleven a.m. on the eleventh day of the eleventh month. But while the fighting was over, it wasn’t really the end of the war. It was only the beginning of the end. On this date in 1918, North Dakota Senator McCumber drew attention to the dire conditions in Europe where “our boys” were still stationed. He noted that Europe had been devastated, “a desert, defaced by flame and pitted by shell holes.” Many of the simplest items needed to ease the suffering of wounded and sick soldiers were unavailable. McCumber urged support for the United War Work Campaign.

The goal was $170 million, and Americans rose to the challenge. Seven non-governmental organizations banded together to organize the effort: The American Library Association, the Jewish Welfare Board, the Knights of Columbus, the Salvation Army, War Camp Community Service, the Young Men’s Christian Association and the Young Women’s Christian Association. The campaign began on November 11th and would last well into 1919.

The “Seven Sisters,” as they came to be known, did not always have an amiable relationship. They were run by strong-willed leaders who often clashed. Prior to the armistice they disagreed on several issues. These included the decision to have a single fundraising campaign and the allocation of the funds to the different groups.

The disparate nature of the groups was a natural source of contention. The YWCA was the only women’s organization. While most of the women in the campaign ads portrayed traditional roles of mother and sister, the YWCA was more adventurous. Their theme was “For every fighter a woman worker.” YWCA posters showed women in work roles traditionally held by men. This was much less common in World War I than later in World War II.

The YMCA was clearly Protestant, and though the Salvation Army was also part of the Social Gospel movement, Y considered the Salvation Army to be lower-class and radical. Then there was the Catholic Knights of Columbus and the Jewish Welfare Board, which both faced religious discrimination.

Despite these frictions, the campaign was successful. Funds supported canteens for the troops and provided comfort items like cigarettes, chocolate, postage stamps, and books. All the organizations had one primary goal in mind – support for America’s soldiers.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


Hope Pioneer. “Peace is Here.” Hope ND. 11/14/1918. Page 1.

Hope Pioneer. “McCumber Approves Work.” Hope ND. 11/14/1918. Page 2.

United War Work. “For the Boys Over There.”  Accessed 10/13/2019.

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