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Feeling Like a Citizen: The American Legion’s Boys State Programme and the Promise of Americanism

  • Susan A. Miller
Chapter
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Emotions book series (Palgrave Studies in the History of Emotions)

Abstract

If the experience of war can ever really be called typical, then for a member of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), Private First Class Edward W. Miller had a fairly typical encounter with the First World War. He enlisted in June 1917 two months after the United States entered the conflict, but wasn’t shipped to France until April of the following year, where he fought in some of the war’s last major engagements at Château Thierry, Champagne-Marne and the Meuse Argonne. Although gassed on the Western Front, his injuries did not preclude him from serving in the US occupation forces in France at the war’s end; lingering health concerns did, however, briefly land him in a veterans’ hospital upon his return home. Nor was Miller’s military service the only experience that marked him as an average representative of his generation. Born somewhere in the Balkans, he had arrived in the United States in the early years of the twentieth century amidst the heaviest waves of immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe. Like many young immigrant men (Miller was 22 when he enlisted in the AEF), he was eager to prove his loyalty to his adopted country by voluntarily returning to Europe — dressed in an American military uniform.

Keywords

Emotional Socialization Fellow Citizen Emotional Community American Legion Girl Scout 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    William Pencak, For God and Country: The American Legion, 1919–1941 (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1989) is the best scholarly history of the Legion.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Susan A. Brewer, Why America Fights: Patriotism and War Propaganda from the Philippines to Iraq (Oxford University Press, 2009).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Michael Kazin and Joseph A. McCartin (eds), Americanism: New Perspectives on the History of an Ideal (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 1.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    My analysis extends what historian Patricia West, among others, calls the ‘domestication of history’; see Patricia West, Domesticating History: The Political Origins ofAmerica’s House Museums (Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1999);Google Scholar
  5. Seth C. Bruggeman (ed.), Born in the U.S.A.: Birth, Commemoration, and American Public Memory (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2012).Google Scholar
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    Richard J. Ellis, To the Flag: The Unlikely History of the Pledge of Allegiance (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2005).Google Scholar
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    For an analogous case, see Stephanie Olsen, Juvenile Nation: Youth, Emotions and the Making of the Modern British Citizen, 1880–1914 (London: Bloomsbury, 2014);Google Scholar
  9. 14.
    Robert H. Wiebe, The Search for Order, 1877–1920 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1967). Wiebe’s iconic 1967 text suggests that the First World War put a halt to the search, but scholarship written in its wake argues that the interwar years continue it.Google Scholar
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  12. 16.
    Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, revised edn (New York: Verso, 2006).Google Scholar
  13. 20.
    Susan A. Miller, Growing Girls: The Natural Origins of Girls’ Organizations in America (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2007).Google Scholar
  14. 21.
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  16. 24.
    On cultural conversations about the gang instinct, see Steven Mintz, Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004);Google Scholar
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  18. 27.
    Jane H. Hunter firmly established the worth of youth-edited school newspapers for access to young people’s self-created culture; see Jane H. Hunter, How Young Ladies Became Girls: The Victorian Origins of American Girlhood (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002).Google Scholar
  19. 31.
    For siblings, see Leonore Davidoff, Thicker than Water: Siblings and their Relations, 1780–1920 (Oxford University Press, 2012);Google Scholar
  20. C. Dallett Hemphill, Siblings: Brothers and Sisters in American History (Oxford University Press, 2011).Google Scholar
  21. 32.
    There is some debate in the literature over this. See David I. Macleod, Building Character in the American Boy: The Boy Scouts, YMCA, and their Forerunners, 1870–1920 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1983);Google Scholar
  22. Kenneth B. Kidd, Making American Boys: Boyology and the Feral Tale (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004) for varying degrees of fraternity among‘boy workers’.Google Scholar
  23. 35.
    Bob Olmstead, ‘What Democracy Means to Me’, The Cornhusker (9 June 1941), front page.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Susan A. Miller 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan A. Miller

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