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Kellor argued that Americanization was a combination of efficiency and patriotism, arguing that the loss of foreign language speaking among the working classes reduced the risks of agitations, strikes, and the influence of foreign propaganda.
Anti-German phobia, in particular, was rampant during WWI, with many schools refusing to teach the German language and German food-stuffs, such as sauerkraut, were rechristened into acceptable American patriotic names ("liberty cabbage").
Americanization curtailed the use of foreign languages and prevented many immigrants from returning to Europe during the war.
The National Americanization Committee (NAC), directed by Frances Kellor, was by far the most important private organization in the Americanization movement, which was concerned with the issue of their political loyalty, whether to the United States or to their mother country, and our long-term and tension regarding assimilation into American society.
Outside the United States, Americanization is a term for the influence the United States has on the culture of other countries, such as their popular culture, cuisine, technology, business practices, or political techniques. The term has been used since at least 1907. Within the United States, the term Americanization refers to the process of acculturation by immigrants to American customs and values.
The outbreak of war in 1914 increased concern about the millions of foreign born in the United States. The short-term concern was their loyalty to their native countries and the long-term was their assimilation into American society. Numerous agencies became active in promoting "Americanization" so that the ethnics would be psychologically and politically loyal to the U.S. The states set up programs through their Councils of National Defense. Numerous federal agencies were involved, including the Bureau of Education and the United States Department of the Interior and the Food Administration. The most important private organization was the National Americanization Committee (NAC) directed by Frances Kellor . Second in importance was the Committee for Immigrants in America, which helped fund the Division of Immigrant Education in the federal Bureau of Education.
The war prevented millions of recently arrived immigrants from returning to Europe as they originally intended. The great majority decided to stay in America and foreign language use declined dramatically. They welcomed Americanization, often signing up for English classes and using their savings to buy homes and bring over other family members.
Kellor, speaking for the NAC in 1916, proposed to combine efficiency and patriotism in her Americanization programs. It would be more efficient, she argued, once the factory workers could all understand English and therefore better understand orders and avoid accidents. Once Americanized, they would grasp American industrial ideals, be open to American influences, and not be subject to strike agitators or foreign propagandists. The result, she argued would transform indifferent and ignorant residents into understanding voters, to make their homes into American homes, and to establish American standards of living throughout the ethnic communities. Ultimately, she argued it would "unite foreign-born and native alike in enthusiastic loyalty to our national ideals of liberty and justice. "
Despite efforts to assimilate immigrants, some German-Americans were accused of being sympathetic to the German Empire. Former president Theodore Roosevelt denounced "hyphenated Americanism", insisting that dual loyalties were impossible in wartime. A small minority came out for Germany or ridiculed the British. Thousands were forced to buy war bonds to show their loyalty. A phobia of anything German engulfed the nation . Sauerkraut was rechristened "liberty cabbage", for example. Some states attempted to restrict the use and teaching of the German language, which led to court challenges. In Meyer v. Nebraska the Supreme held such a Nebraska law unconstitutional in 1919.