Remnants and reflections of the Great War

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On Thursday, University of Northern Colorado students and staff gathered in the lower levels of the Michener Library to listen in on the history department’s presentation, “The Great War and its Relevance Today.” This lecture was to honor the ceasefire which ended the Great War, better known as World War I, 100 years ago on Nov. 11, 1918.

To commemorate this historical event, Joan Clinefelter, a professor in UNC’s history department, lead a presentation of soldiers lifestyles during World War I as well as the consequences of the war that carried on to modern day.

“It is the Great War in which the 20th century was born,” Clinefelter said.

Clinefelter backed up this statement with her lecture on innovations during World War I which have now been established in modern society. For example, slang words such as “A-1”, “cooties” and “zig-zag” were put into common speech after originally being military terms. She also discussed how a handful of products have their origins within the war, including the brand Kleenex. Originally Kleenex served to line gas masks, while after the war they were refurbished into disposable handkerchiefs and are now seen as a household necessity.

She also spoke of the disgusting and dangerous lives the soldiers lead in the trenches from a Eurocentric point of view, focusing on its effects and impacts within Europe rather than the United States. Clinefelter described rats the size of cats and diseases such as trench foot. She also described women’s involvement in the war, which was a leading contributor to social advances, including women joining the workforce  and the normalization of women wearing pants.


Clinefelter had a few of her students present their own assignments in regards to World War I. These studentsBrooke Richeson, Paul Carrasco and Kyle Faust are all prospective history teachers who chose little-known topics to present in relation to their effects on the Great War.

Richeson discussed the Salvation Army’s notable “Donut Girls.” These workers were women who spent their time inside the trenches delivering donuts to raise the spirits of soldiers. These Donut Girls are still a tradition for the Salvation Army today.

Carrasco analyzed the contributions of James Reese Europe, a musician, to the war. Europe is thought to have brought jazz to the European area while experimenting with the orchestral ragtime.

The final presentation was brought by Faust, in which he discussed the evolution of the repeater gear in airborne artillery. Both French and German armies had to overcome the problem of situating guns on their planes which were easy to work and not harmful to the plane itself.

The presentations were all in part to emphasize the exhibit in the lower levels of Michener Library. The Office of Archives and Special Collections displayed many documents and posters for their exhibit, “UNC in the Great War.” Glass boxes lined the room with propaganda posters, official documents and release paper, inviting passers-by to come take a look at archives displaying UNC’s rich history within World War I. This exhibit will be on display until the end of the day on Wednesday, Nov. 14.


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