World War 1
Updated: Apr 15
World War I started in 1914 and lasted until 1918. Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire (the Central Powers) fought against Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Japan and the USA (the Allied Powers). World War I was arguably the most important event of the last century because the way it ended planted the seeds for WWII...the effects of which are still being felt to this day.
The Great War, as WWI is sometimes called, began with the murder of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his pregnant wife Sophie. The Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was Emperor Franz Josef's nephew and heir apparent to the Austrian-Hungarian throne.
World War I was waged between the Allied and Central Powers, dividing most of the world countries. Initially, France, Russia, and Britain were the key leaders of the Allied Powers. After 1917, the United States also fought with the Allies. The Central Powers’ key leaders were Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria.
Most of the battle took place along two lines in Europe: the western front and the eastern front. The western front was a long line of trenches, stretching from Belgium's coast to Switzerland. Most of the battles took place in France and Belgium along this front. The eastern front was on one hand between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Bulgaria and on the other, Russia and Romania.
Much of the war was waged along the western front using trench warfare. The armies were not moving at all. They just bombed from across the trenches and fired at each other. Many of the main fighting fights included the Marne's First Battle, Somme's Battle, Tannenberg's Battle, Gallipoli's Battle, and Verdun's Fight.
At the time of World War I, most women were barred from voting or serving in military combat roles. Many saw the war as an opportunity to not only serve their countries but to gain more rights and independence. With millions of men away from home, women filled manufacturing and agricultural positions on the home front. Others provided support on the front lines as nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers, translators and, in rare cases, on the battlefield.
One observer wrote that American women “do anything they were given to do; that their hours are long; that their task is hard; that for them there is small hope of medals and citations and glittering homecoming parades.”
Women played a major role in providing services through the Red Cross, making their contributions invaluable.
The Red Cross
The Red Cross played a very important part of World War I. They funded the medical services of the armies, gave relief to prisoners of war and arranged their repatriation at times, and assisted the civilian populations. Given the common concept of an autonomous, neutral, and impartial Red Cross Society, the national communities were subordinated to their respective governments and incorporated into the war effort, as an instrument for mobilizing minds as well as promoting their countries abroad.
Since the start of the war, the Red Cross had been providing relief to worn-torn European countries first with doctors, nurses, and medical supplies on the SS Red Cross or Mercy Ship and later with hospital garments, surgical bandages, and refugee clothing, sent to sister Red Cross societies across the war-torn world.
Women after the war
In most European countries and both Canada and the United States, women’s political rights became an issue during or shortly after the war. Women’s suffrage was usually realized in some form when political upheaval ushered in democracy or electoral reform for men was discussed. Rarely was specific legislation that dealt only with women’s votes successful in legislative bodies.
Three years after the war had ended, on August 26, 1920, Bainbridge Colby, secretary of state at the time signed into law the 19th Amendment to the constitution, giving women the right to vote. This happened due to women temporarily putting fighting for their rights on hold so they could help America with war efforts. That’s when many Americans including the president, Woodrow Wilson, realized that women are an important part of society.
WWI was dubbed The War to End All Wars because it was so horrible in terms of death and destruction that many imagined that nothing like it could ever occur again. But, of course, its end planted the seeds for WWII. WWI ended on 11 November 1918, when German conceded an unconditional defeat. The war formally ended with the signing of the Versailles Convention, between Germany and the Allies. As part of the deal, Germany was humiliated by publically taking full responsibility and agreeing to pay huge sums to the victors called “reparation payments”. Many historians, though not all, believe that the humiliation and crushing burden of reparation payments helped drive Germany to elect a fascist leader like Hilter, leading to World War II.