Top of page

Exhibition Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I

Samuel Gompers to Woodrow Wilson, December 14, 1917. Woodrow Wilson Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (055.00.00)

"We Pledge . . . Our Undivided Support"

At a contentious 1915 American Federation of Labor (AFL) trade union convention, labor leader Samuel Gompers proclaimed to a fractious audience, "I am a pacifist . . . and I had hoped that we would get away from the war idea." Yet from 1915 forward, the AFL's labor policies hewed closely to those of the Wilson administration's foreign policy. Gompers aligned the AFL with Wilson, promoted preparedness, and was appointed to the pre-war Council of National Defense. The AFL's support for the war led to enormous growth in membership and political influence but also sparked equally vociferous dissent within the larger labor movement.