Alabama Home Front
While Alabama soldiers served overseas, Alabamians back home worked to “do their bit.”
Alabamians from all walks of life pitched in to help the war effort. Many joined voluntary organizations such as the Red Cross, the Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defense, the War Camp Community Service, the YMCA, the YWCA, and the Four-Minute Men and Women, which were groups of amateur orators who promoted the war effort. Others formed ad hoc service groups. Near Camps Sheridan and McClellan, women assisted soldiers’ families, provided transportation to and from camps, and hosted social gatherings to draw soldiers away from prostitutes and saloons. Local communities, professors from Alabama State Normal School for Negroes, and women’s clubs in Montgomery and Tuscaloosa organized canning factories to preserve Victory Garden produce and keep food affordable in their cities.
The war had a direct economic impact on state industry. Federal money poured into the Muscle Shoals area and led to the construction of Wilson Dam and two nitrate plants along the Tennessee River, although they would not make their contribution until after the war. Similarly, federal contracts drove the building of shipyards near Mobile. Millions of dollars in wages flowed into both areas, but thousands of new workers encountered serious overcrowding. The war economy also improved demand for Birmingham’s iron products as well as the state’s timber, food, and fiber. Prices rose, and wages, job opportunities, and living standards improved.
Excerpt from “World War I and Alabama“ by Martin T. Olliff, courtesy of Encyclopedia of Alabama, www.encyclopediaofalabama.org.