Jeannette Rankin, first woman elected to U.S. Congress, assumes office

Year
1917
Month Day
April 02

Jeannette Pickering Rankin, the first woman ever elected to Congress, takes her seat in the U.S. Capitol as a representative from Montana.

Born on a ranch near Missoula, Montana Territory, in 1880, Rankin was a social worker in the states of Montana and Washington before joining the women’s suffrage movement in 1910. Working with various suffrage groups, she campaigned for the women’s vote on a national level and in 1914 was instrumental in the passage of suffrage legislation in Montana. Two years later, she successfully ran for Congress in Montana on a progressive Republican platform calling for total women’s suffrage, legislation protecting children, and U.S. neutrality in the European war. Following her election as a representative, Rankin’s entrance into Congress was delayed for a month as congressmen discussed whether a woman should be admitted into the House of Representatives.

Finally, on April 2, 1917, she was introduced in Congress as its first female member. The same day, President Woodrow Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress and urged a declaration of war against Germany. On April 4, the Senate voted for war by a wide majority, and on April 6 the vote went to the House. Citing public opinion in Montana and her own pacifist beliefs, Jeannette Rankin was one of only 50 representatives who voted against the American declaration of war. For the remainder of her first term in Congress, she sponsored legislation to aid women and children, and advocated the passage of a federal suffrage amendment.

In 1918, Rankin unsuccessfully ran for a Senate seat, and in 1919 she left Congress to become an important figure in a number of suffrage and pacifist organizations. In 1940, with the U.S. entrance into another world war imminent, she was again elected as a pacifist representative from Montana and, after assuming office, argued vehemently against President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s war preparations. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and the next day, at Roosevelt’s urging, Congress passed a formal declaration of war against Japan. Representative Rankin cast the sole dissenting vote. This action created a furor and Rankin declined to seek reelection. After leaving office in 1943, Rankin continued to be an important spokesperson for pacifism and social reform. In 1967, she organized the Jeannette Rankin Brigade, an organization that staged a number of highly publicized protests against the Vietnam War. She died in 1973 at the age of 93.

READ MORE: 7 Things You May Not Know About Jeannette Rankin 

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British Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps is officially established

Year
1917
Month Day
July 07

On July 7, 1917, British Army Council Instruction Number 1069 formally establishes the British Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC), authorizing female volunteers to serve alongside their male counterparts in France during World War I.

By 1917, large numbers of women were already working in munitions factories throughout Britain, serving the crucial function of supplying sufficient shells and other munitions for the Allied war effort. The harsh conditions in the factories were undeniable, with long hours spent working with noxious chemicals such as the explosive TNT; a total of 61 female munitions workers died of poisoning, while 81 others died in accidents at work. An explosion at a munitions factory in Silvertown, East London, when an accidental fire ignited 50 tons of TNT, killed 69 more women and severely injured 72 more.

In early 1917, a campaign began to allow women to more directly support the war effort by enlisting in the army to perform labors such as cookery, mechanical and clerical work and other miscellaneous tasks that would otherwise be done by men who could better serve their country in the trenches. By March 11, 1917, even Sir Douglas Haig, the British commander in chief, had come around to the idea, writing to the British War Office that “the principle of employing women in this country [France] is accepted and they will be made use of wherever conditions admit.”

The establishment of the WAAC in the summer of 1917 meant that, for the first time, women were to be put in uniform and sent to France to serve as clerks, telephone operators, waitresses and in other positions on the war front. Women were paid less than their male counterparts: 24 shillings per week for unskilled labor and up to twice that for more skilled labor, such as shorthand typing. 

As the stated purpose behind the WAAC was to release British soldiers doing menial work in Britain and France for active service at the front, the War Office set the restriction that for every woman given a job through the WAAC, a man had to be released for frontline duties. None of the female volunteers could become officers–according to traditions in the British army–but those who rose in the ranks were given the status of “controllers” or “administrators.” 

By the end of World War I, approximately 80,000 women had served in the three British women’s forces—the WAAC, the Women’s Relief Defense Corps and the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry—as non-combatants, but full-fledged contributors to the Allied war effort.

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National Hockey League (NHL) opens its first season


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Year
1917
Month Day
December 19

On December 19, 1917, four teams of the National Hockey League (NHL) play in the fledgling league’s first two games. At the time of its inception, the NHL was made up of five franchises: the Canadiens and the Wanderers (both of Montreal), the Ottawa Senators, the Quebec Bulldogs and the Toronto Arenas. The Montreal teams won two victories that first day, as the Canadiens beat Ottawa 7-4 and the Wanderers triumphed over Toronto 10-9.

The first professional ice hockey league was the International Pro Hockey League, founded in 1904 in Michigan. After it folded, two bigger leagues emerged in Canada: the National Hockey Association (NHA) and the Pacific Coast League (PCL). In 1914, the two leagues played a championship series, and the winner was awarded the famous silver bowl donated for Canada’s amateur hockey leagues by Lord Stanley, the English governor general of Canada, in 1892. The NHA stopped operating during World War I, and after the war the five elite teams from Canada formed the NHL in its place. Despite that early defeat, Toronto went on to win the inaugural season. In March 1918, they defeated the PCL champions, the Vancouver Millionaires, three games to two for the Stanley Cup.

By 1926, the PCL had folded, and the 10 teams of the NHL divided into two divisions. The champions of each those two divisions–the Eastern and the Western Conference–now face each other at the end of each season in the Stanley Cup Championship.

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Zimmermann Telegram presented to U.S. ambassador


Year
1917
Month Day
February 24

During World War I, British authorities give Walter H. Page, the U.S. ambassador to Britain, a copy of the “Zimmermann Telegram,” a coded message from Arthur Zimmermann, the German foreign secretary, to Count Johann von Bernstorff, the German ambassador to Mexico. In the telegram, intercepted and deciphered by British intelligence in late January, Zimmermann stated that in the event of war with the United States, Mexico should be asked to enter the conflict as a German ally. In return, Germany promised to restore to Mexico the lost territories of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

After receiving the telegram, Page promptly sent a copy to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, who in early March allowed the U.S. State Department to publish the note. The press initially treated the telegram as a hoax, but Arthur Zimmermann himself confirmed its authenticity. The Zimmermann Telegram helped turn U.S. public opinion, already severely strained by repeated German attacks on U.S. ships, firmly against Germany. On April 2, President Wilson, who had initially sought a peaceful resolution to end World War I, urged the immediate U.S. entrance into the war. Four days later, Congress formally declared war against Germany.

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U.S. ends search for Pancho Villa


Year
1917
Month Day
January 28

American forces are recalled from Mexico after nearly 11 months of fruitless searching for Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, who was accused of leading a bloody raid against Columbus, New Mexico.

In 1914, following the resignation of Mexican leader Victoriano Huerta, Pancho Villa and his former revolutionary ally Venustiano Carranza battled each other in a struggle for succession. By the end of 1915, Villa had been driven north into the mountains, and the U.S. government recognized General Carranza as the president of Mexico.

In January 1916, to protest President Woodrow Wilson’s support for Carranza, Villa executed 16 U.S. citizens at Santa Isabel in northern Mexico. Then, on March 9, 1916, Villa led a band of several hundred guerrillas across the border and raided the town of Columbus, killing 17 Americans. U.S. troops pursued the Mexicans, killing 50 on U.S. soil and 70 more in Mexico.

On March 15, under orders from President Wilson, U.S. Brigadier General John J. Pershing launched a punitive expedition into Mexico to capture Villa dead or alive. For the next 11 months, Pershing, like Carranza, failed to capture the elusive revolutionary and Mexican resentment over the U.S. intrusion into their territory led to a diplomatic crisis. On June 21, the crisis escalated into violence when Mexican government troops attacked Pershing’s forces at Carrizal, Mexico, leaving 17 Americans killed or wounded, and 38 Mexicans dead. In late January 1917, having failed in their mission to capture Villa and under pressure from the Mexican government, the Americans were ordered home.

Villa continued his guerrilla activities in northern Mexico until Adolfo de la Huerta took power over the government and drafted a reformist constitution. Villa entered into an amicable agreement with Huerta and agreed to retire from politics. In 1920, the government pardoned Villa, but three years later he was assassinated at Parral.

READ MORE: Pancho Villa – Facts, Death & Life

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Mexican constitution proclaimed


Year
1917
Month Day
February 05

After seven years of revolution and civil upheaval, Mexican President Venustiano Carranza proclaims the modern Mexican constitution, which promises the restoration of lands to native peoples, the separation of church and state, and dramatic economic and educational reforms. The progressive political document, approved by an elected constitutional convention, combined revolutionary demands for land reform with advanced social theory. 

It would be decades, however, before most of the sweeping reforms promised by the constitution became reality. Carranza was deposed and killed in 1920, and lasting stability eluded Mexico until after World War II, when industrialism spurred by the war grew into a major part of the economy and Miguel Aleman became the first in an unbroken series of civilian presidents.

READ MORE: Mexico: Timeline and Facts

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Immigration act passed over President Wilson’s veto


Year
1917
Month Day
February 05

With more than a two-thirds majority, Congress overrides President Woodrow Wilson’s veto of the previous week and passes the Immigration Act. The law required a literacy test for immigrants and barred Asiatic laborers, except for those from countries with special treaties or agreements with the United States, such as the Philippines.

READ MORE: U.S. Immigration Timeline

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the United States received a majority of the world’s immigrants, with 1.3 million immigrants passing through New York’s Ellis Island in 1907 alone. Various restrictions had been applied against immigrants since the 1890s, but most of those seeking entrance into the United States were accepted.

However, in 1894, the Immigration Restriction League was founded in Boston and subsequently petitioned the U.S. government to legislate that immigrants be required to demonstrate literacy in some language before being accepted. The organization hoped to quell the recent surge of lower-class immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe. Congress passed a literacy bill in 1897, but President Grover Cleveland vetoed it. In early 1917, with America’s entrance into World War I three months away, xenophobia was at a new high, and a bill restricting immigration was passed over President Wilson’s veto.

Subsequent immigration to the United States sharply declined, and, in 1924 a law was passed requiring immigrant inspection in countries of origin, leading to the closure of Ellis Island and other major immigrant processing centers. Between 1892 and 1924, some 16 million people successfully immigrated to the United States to seek a better life.

READ MORE: U.S. Immigration Since 1965

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Czar Nicholas II abdicates Russian throne


Year
1917
Month Day
March 15

During the February Revolution, Czar Nicholas II, ruler of Russia since 1894, is forced to abdicate the throne by the Petrograd insurgents, and a provincial government is installed in his place.

Crowned on May 26, 1894, Nicholas was neither trained nor inclined to rule, which did not help the autocracy he sought to preserve in an era desperate for change. The disastrous outcome of the Russo-Japanese War led to the Russian Revolution of 1905, which the czar diffused only after signing a manifesto promising representative government and basic civil liberties in Russia. However, Nicholas soon retracted most of these concessions, and the Bolsheviks and other revolutionary groups won wide support. In 1914, Nicholas led his country into another costly war, and discontent in Russia grew as food became scarce, soldiers became war-weary, and devastating defeats on the eastern front demonstrated the czar’s ineffectual leadership.

In March 1917, the army garrison at Petrograd joined striking workers in demanding socialist reforms, and Czar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate. Nicholas and his family were first held at the Czarskoye Selo palace, then in the Yekaterinburg palace near Tobolsk. In July 1918, the advance of counterrevolutionary forces caused the Yekaterinburg Soviet forces to fear that Nicholas might be rescued. After a secret meeting, a death sentence was passed on the imperial family, and Nicholas, his wife, his children, and several of their servants were gunned down on the night of July 16.

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The United States officially enters World War I

Year
1917
Month Day
April 06

Two days after the U.S. Senate voted 82 to 6 to declare war against Germany, the U.S. House of Representatives endorses the declaration by a vote of 373 to 50, and America formally enters World War I.

When World War I erupted in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson pledged neutrality for the United States, a position that the vast majority of Americans favored. Britain, however, was one of America’s closest trading partners, and tension soon arose between the United States and Germany over the latter’s attempted quarantine of the British Isles. Several U.S. ships traveling to Britain were damaged or sunk by German mines, and in February 1915 Germany announced unrestricted warfare against all ships, neutral or otherwise, that entered the war zone around Britain. One month later, Germany announced that a German cruiser had sunk the William P. Frye, a private American vessel. President Wilson was outraged, but the German government apologized and called the attack an unfortunate mistake.

READ MORE: Should the U.S. Have Entered World War I?

On May 7, the British-owned Lusitania ocean liner was torpedoed without warning just off the coast of Ireland. Of the 1,959 passengers, 1,198 were killed, including 128 Americans. The German government maintained that the Lusitania was carrying munitions, but the U.S. demanded reparations and an end to German attacks on unarmed passenger and merchant ships. In August, Germany pledged to see to the safety of passengers before sinking unarmed vessels, but in November sunk an Italian liner without warning, killing 272 people, including 27 Americans. With these attacks, public opinion in the United States began to turn irrevocably against Germany.

In 1917, Germany, determined to win its war of attrition against the Allies, announced the resumption of unrestricted warfare in war-zone waters. Three days later, the United States broke diplomatic relations with Germany, and just hours after that the American liner Housatonic was sunk by a German U-boat. On February 22, Congress passed a $250 million arms appropriations bill intended to make the United States ready for war. In late March, Germany sunk four more U.S. merchant ships, and on April 2 President Wilson appeared before Congress and called for a declaration of war against Germany. Four days later, his request was granted.

On June 26, the first 14,000 U.S. infantry troops landed in France to begin training for combat. After four years of bloody stalemate along the western front, the entrance of America’s well-supplied forces into the conflict marked a major turning point in the war and helped the Allies to victory. When the war finally ended, on November 11, 1918, more than two million American soldiers had served on the battlefields of Western Europe, and some 50,000 of them had lost their lives.

READ MORE: World War I: Causes and Timeline

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February Revolution begins, leading to the end of czarist rule in Russia


Year
1917
Month Day
March 08

In Russia, the February Revolution (known as such because of Russia’s use of the Julian calendar) begins when riots and strikes over the scarcity of food erupt in Petrograd. One week later, centuries of czarist rule in Russia ended with the abdication of Nicholas II, and Russia took a dramatic step closer toward communist revolution.

By 1917, most Russians had lost faith in the leadership ability of the czarist regime. Government corruption was rampant, the Russian economy remained backward, and Nicholas repeatedly dissolved the Duma, the Russian parliament established after the Revolution of 1905, when it opposed his will. However, the immediate cause of the February Revolution–the first phase of the Russian Revolution of 1917–was Russia’s disastrous involvement in World War I. Militarily, imperial Russia was no match for industrialized Germany, and Russian casualties were greater than those sustained by any nation in any previous war. Meanwhile, the economy was hopelessly disrupted by the costly war effort, and moderates joined Russian radical elements in calling for the overthrow of the czar.

On March 8, 1917, demonstrators clamoring for bread took to the streets in the Russian capital of Petrograd (now known as St. Petersburg). Supported by 90,000 men and women on strike, the protesters clashed with police but refused to leave the streets. On March 10, the strike spread among all of Petrograd’s workers, and irate mobs of workers destroyed police stations. Several factories elected deputies to the Petrograd Soviet, or “council,” of workers’ committees, following the model devised during the Revolution of 1905.

On March 11, the troops of the Petrograd army garrison were called out to quell the uprising. In some encounters, regiments opened fire, killing demonstrators, but the protesters kept to the streets, and the troops began to waver. That day, Nicholas again dissolved the Duma. On March 12, the revolution triumphed when regiment after regiment of the Petrograd garrison defected to the cause of the demonstrators. The soldiers, some 150,000 men, subsequently formed committees that elected deputies to the Petrograd Soviet.

The imperial government was forced to resign, and the Duma formed a provisional government that peacefully vied with the Petrograd Soviet for control of the revolution. On March 14, the Petrograd Soviet issued “Order No. 1,” which instructed Russian soldiers and sailors to obey only those orders that did not conflict with the directives of the Soviet. The next day, March 15, Czar Nicholas II abdicated the throne in favor of his brother Michael, whose refusal of the crown brought an end to the czarist autocracy.

The new provincial government, tolerated by the Petrograd Soviet, hoped to salvage the Russian war effort while ending the food shortage and many other domestic crises. It would prove a daunting task. Meanwhile, Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Bolshevik revolutionary party, left his exile in Switzerland and crossed German enemy lines to return home and take control of the Russian Revolution.

READ MORE: Russia: A Timeline

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