HELENA – April 6, 1917 marked the day the United States entered World War I.
Montana was still a young state, not even 30 years old at the time, with a population comprised of 66 percent immigrants, or children of immigrants.
“German farmers, lots of Finnish miners, lots of Irish immigrants, and they all brought their politics and their ideas from their home country with them and those were all really happening in Montana, too,” said Montana Historical Society Historical Specialist Martha Kohl.
Kohl has been working to put together a new website that compiles the stories of Montana’s people at the time and events that took place during those years.
She said the topics and headlines are incredibly reflective of questions still being asked today.
“Are foreign nationals a threat to our security and way of life? How should we support our troops serving overseas? What does it mean to be a good American? What does it meant to be patriotic? Can you dissent and be patriotic? These were all burning, burning topics during the WWI period,” said Kohl.
Aside from the questions stirring in communities, there were other matters brewing among Montana’s industries, which further fractured support for the war.
“(They) viewed it as a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight. That the rich were going to get rich off this war by selling arms, by the increase in production of copper, timber – that increased market – and it was going to be the workers that were going to get slaughtered on the battlefield. That was the tension: how do you mobilize the entire society and still maintain freedom of choice and liberty. So those are some of the topics that are explored on this story map.”
Kohl said the website puts faces and stories to the issues of the times and helps viewers gain a greater understanding of Montana during World War I.
Click here to reach the website.
This Thursday at 6:30 p.m.