Issue   #6 -   The Home Front
History all too often tells the story of war from the military perspective: pivotal battles, territory lost and gained, the lives and deaths of soldiers on the battlefield. But no analysis of World War I can be complete without an understanding of life on the home front: the families left behind, the men and women who worked to keep industry running and populations fed, the suffering experienced by citizens surrounded by the ravages of war.

A soldier's morale is lifted by letters from a sweetheart, armies are kept in bullets by tireless munitions workers, and starvation leads governments to collapse, forcing nations out of the war. It all begins at home.

"Everything that that powder touches goes yellow. All the girls' faces were yellow, all round their mouths. They had their own canteen, in which everything was yellow that they touched ... chairs, tables, everything."
- Ethel Dean, describing the effects of TNT on munitions workers
at the Woolwich Arsenal in London. Listen to her full interview from the Imperial War Museums, recorded in 1986.

Thousands of British women volunteered for war service work, with many of these women becoming employed in the country's munitions factories. By the end of the war, over 700,000 women became 'munitionettes,' however the work was far from easy or safe. Learn more and listen to interviews with the workers on 

Recommended Grade Levels: All levels
Format: Online article with digital audio

From Smithsonian Magazine, this article looks at the often-forgotten history of internment, deportation, and property seizure on the home front in the U.S., especially for German-speaking immigrants during World War I. Read on 
Recommended Grade Levels: Middle School, High School, College, Adult Learners
Format: Online Article

The decisive naval battle that the Royal Navy had hoped for did not happen during World War I, but another naval strategy slowly but surely ground the German economy down. The Great War Channel looks at the British naval blockade of Germany - and its effects on the German home front - in this special episode.
Watch on YouTube 

Recommended Grade Levels: Middle School, High School, College, Adult Learners
Format: Digital video, 7 1/2 minutes

The National World War I Museum and Memorial addresses an often overlooked aspect of the war: food. In addition to reevaluating the effects of food on World War I and the home front, War Fare includes photographs, comments, and even vintage recipes updated for the modern era. View on 

Recommended Grade Levels: All levels
Format: Online Exhibition

During the First World War, Britain came under attack from the air, putting civilians in the firing line for the very first time. This article from the Imperial War Museums looks at air raids, and how the public reacted. Read on 

Recommended Grade Levels: All levels
Format: Online article

"News items have appeared in some of the Boston papers recently stating that certain ex-members of the Red Sox Baseball Team would be granted leave for the purpose of playing with the Red Sox for the coming season.

Commandant of the Boston Navy Yard desires to refute this statement most emphatically ... There is no thought of granting leave or any special privileges, for the purpose of playing with the Red Sox or any other team."
- Letter to the press dated Feb. 9, 1918, from a collection of correspondence concerning Red Sox players at the Boston Navy Yard.

The above image comes from DocsTeach, a resource from the National Archives education division. Access thousands of primary sources from World War I - including letters, photographs, posters, video, and many other documents - along with teaching activities and interactive content. Explore WWI at 

Recommended Grade Levels: All Levels
Format: Online Database

Food production was essential in World War I. American citizens were encouraged to create "War Gardens" and grow their own food, allowing more commercially-produced food to reach troops. In this maker activity from Virginia 4-H, students will explore the history and science of War Gardens and plant their own garden. Download PDFs: The History of War GardensThe Science of SeedsMaking Seed TapeWar Garden Poster 

Recommended Grade Levels: Elementary School
Format: Downloadable Lesson Plans

From National History Day, this high school lesson plan asks students to explain the purpose of the Food Administraion in the U.S. and explores the sacrifices Americans on the home front made during the war, using primary sources such as posters and video clips. Download PDF 

Recommended Grade Levels: High School
Format: Downloadable Lesson Plan

Image courtesy National Archives
"They [African-American women] went into every kind of factory devoted to the production of war materials, from the most dangerous posts in munitions plants to the delicate sewing in aeroplane factories. Colored girls and colored women drove motor trucks, unloaded freight cars, dug ditches, packed boxes. The colored woman running the elevator or speeding a railroad on its way by signals was a common sight."
- Alice Dunbar-Nelson, African-American poet and civil rights advocate, discussing the contributions of African-American women to the war.
Learn more in the online exhibition Make Way for Democracy.
By 1917, participation in World War I had resulted in disaster for the tsar's armies and government. The nation's casualties were much higher than those of any other country, and its economy was in shambles. Revolution soon followed, altering the course of the war. From Facing History and Ourselves, this article is part of a larger collection of readings that look into how WWI affected people's attitudes towards war and the value of human life. Read on 
Recommended Grade Levels: Middle School, High School, College, Adult Learners
Format: Online Reading with discussion questions
Visit for more education resources that you can use free of charge and see the Understanding the Great War newsletter archive.
The United States World War One Centennial Commission and the National World War I Museum and Memorial are dedicated to educating the public about the causes, events, and consequences of the conflict and we encourage the use of these resources to better understand the Great War and its enduring impact on the global community.

Partners on this project include:
The Pritzker Military Museum and Library is a founding sponsor of the United States World War One Centennial Commission.