Again, as with Mr. Ely and Judge Lindsey, I had to resort to the internet to find out what the story is about Mary S. McDowell. It turns out to be curious on several levels.
Basically, Mary S. McDowell is teaching in New York City, in 1917. Along comes World War I. The teachers are being required by the Principal (Woodrow Parfrey) to take an oath of supporting the war effort, and not teaching "subversive" material. More about the "subversive" material later. McDowell (Rosemary Harris) is a Quaker, and she will not support war - she is a pacifist. The episode is how she is fired for her insistence on her principles.
What I find interesting is how the internet showed the relative obscurity of poor Mary S. McDowell, with a better known figure of the same period, "Mary E. McDowell". The latter, known as "the angel of the stockyards" was a reformer on par with her friend and ally Jane Addams, who fought for a wide variety of reforms in labor, woman's rights, and even race relations after the 1919 race riots in Chicago. There is plenty on the internet about "Mary E. McDowell", but the only thing about poor Mary S. McDowell, who just wanted to teach without interference, is connected to this episode. Somehow nobody has seen fit to put together a television program or movie about "Mary E. McDowell".
Again, the cast is interesting, with Albert Salmi, Frances Sternhagen, and Jason Wingreen (from ALL IN THE FAMILY) in support of Harris and Parfrey, and the director is Jose Quintero, best recalled for his re-staging and direction of several masterpieces of Eugene O'Neill, with Jason Robards and Colleen Dewhurst in them).
Now the part about the "subversive material". Back in 1902 or so New Yorkers were presented with an interesting ballot issue in one election: should German be taught as an equal language to English in the local schools? This was because of the huge German-American population in the city. The issue was just barely defeated (if you made the city multi-lingual, every language would have had to be considered for similar treatment). But this does illustrate the heavy influence, culturally, Germany had in New York. It was true, by the way, throughout the mid west as well.
Along came World War I. One of the things that men like La Follette and George Norris feared was that the United States would go haywire against Germans because of the war. There had been serious hints of this before we entered the war, when the newspapers in the East (including the New York Times) made snide, snippy comments about German militarism and claims about German atrocities. When the Lusitania was sunk, a degree of anger and hysteria arose. In part it was inevitable (a German submarine sank the vessel) but the attempts by the Germans to explain matters about the fact the Cunarder was registered as an auxiliary cruiser, or it may have had an illegal cargo of arms for the front, went unheeded. An espionage and sabotage campaign in America, prior to our involvement did not make Germany more lovable to the citizens. Finally, after the Ships Subsidy Bill fight, the revelations of the Zimmermann Telegram's offers of land to Mexico broke the back of any friendly feelings we may have ever had.
Some tried to stem the tide. William Randolph Hearst used his papers to try to present a more even view of the war in Europe - but Hearst was of German ancestry, and his views were suspect (in CITIZEN KANE, Charles Foster Kane also is opposed to America's involvement in World War I, but the issue is never developed).
La Follette and Norris (and Hearst) were fully right to be worried about an over-reaction. The image of the "Hun" as the Germans were called was created by Wilson's propaganda office under George Creel. The great cartoonist Roland Kirby did spectacular images of beer guzzling, evil faced killers creating desolation all over the place, under their spiked helmets. We remember James Montgomery Flagg's classic "Uncle Sam Wants You!" poster for enlistments (taken from an earlier British poster with the ill-fated Lord Kitchener mouthing a similar phrase with a similar pose). We don't recall the posters of drowned mothers clutching drowned babies, near a wrecked Lusitania, with a reminder of who did this.
Creel's office helped fund most of these propaganda ploys - the only positive result (as far as I can see) was in helping D.W. Griffith do his modern war classic HEARTS OF THE WORLD in 1917. Even that did not paint the Germans well (in another Griffith film an unreconstructed old Confederate living in "exile" in France becomes reconciled to the United States when he meets with the Hun, who are worse than the Yankees were).
We had changes in our language and national diet. No more "hamburgers und frankfurters mit sauerkraut". Now it was "liberty steaks, and hot dogs with liberty cabbage." Only "hot dogs" have managed to remain a popular term. German operas were banned from the Metropolitan Opera House (thus cutting down on the repertory). The cute dachshunds became "liberty dogs". And German was not taught.
To be fair, Wilson also cut down on baseball to concentrate on the war effort (why baseball?). It was all pretty extreme. Even when giving due allowance for the Black Tom sabotage, or Von Papen's espionage ring, or the Zimmermann idiocy, or the Lusitania, it really wasn't called for!
Much of this was repeated (except for renaming food staples) in World War II, when the atrocities were far more real. But I note while Wagner's operas (highly popular with the Nazis) were banned from 1941 - 1945, nobody tried to ban Puccini, Rossini, Verdi, Donezetti, or Leoncavallo from Opera Houses despite our war with Italy. We seemed to like the Italians more, and just blamed the war with them on Mussolini only.
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