North Carolina WWI Female College Volunteers’ Work List

Author: 
Matthew M. Peek, Military Collection Archivist

During World War I, the roles of numerous women of all ages, economic levels, and races found more roles in society than ever before in the United States. This was particularly true for the young women of the state between ages 15 and 24, who attended normal institutes to become teachers, colleges to become nurses and secretaries, or riding on the wave of female empowerment and increased educational opportunities offered during the Progressive Era. In North Carolina in WWI, women at colleges and normal institutes around the state came out in vast numbers to offer their services in growing and canning food for service individuals, creating wraps and packaging medical goods for the American Red Cross, volunteering as nurses for their communities or colleges, and writing letters to men serving in camps and overseas lonely for home.

 

The North Carolina State Normal and Industrial College prior to 1919 [which changed its name to the North Carolina College for Women in 1919] in Greensboro, N.C. (present-day University of North Carolina—Greensboro), was the centralized organization focus for college women in the state. As one of the state’s educational leaders for women, its leadership took the responsibility to issue an organizational call among all of the women’s colleges and schools to help communicate opportunities and wartime needs for women’s work on the home front. Minnie Lou Jamison, the secretary at the College, helped keep wartime statistics on college women’s wartime efforts and assisted in organizing college women apparently around the state. She would serve in numerous capacities at the College for over fifty years, including as faculty with the Domestic Science Department there around the period of WWI.

 

Jamison kept the following seven-page list of the amount and types of work conducted by women at each of North Carolina’s women’s colleges and normal institutes. It is the only-known combined documentation of the work of women at the colleges for the summer and fall of 1918. It also includes a brief mention of the work conducted by women at African American colleges during the war, in one of the only programs in the state in which white people actually helped black North Carolinians with organizing for their benefit. The schools named include: Flora Macdonald College in Red Springs, N.C.; North Carolina College for Women in Greensboro; Lenoir College in Hickory, N.C. (present-day Lenoir-Rhyne University); Meredith College in Raleigh; Peace Institute in Raleigh (present-day William Peace University); Normal College; St. Mary's School in Raleigh; and Converse College in Spartanburg, S.C. (the women listed were North Carolinians volunteer at the school).

 

This list was entered in the unpublished History of the North Carolina Council of Defense, 1917-1920, in 3 volumes, by North Carolina state geologist Joseph Hyde Pratt. Pratt had been one of the founding members of the Council of Defense, and sat down after his WWI Army service to compose a history of the Council, which went unfinished when he donated it to the State Archives of North Carolina around 1932 or 1933.

The list has gone unnoticed for almost a hundred years, and this is the first time the list has been shared in its entirety apart from the remaining History. Rather than write about the details on the list, we are simply going to share the pages to allow everyone to view them on their own.

If you are an alumnus of one of these schools, or have an ancestor who likely participated in the wartime work at these schools, you should feel proud of the long legacy of women breaking boundaries and contributing to the public during one of the country’s most tumultuous periods of the 20th century.

You can learn more about the role of women in North Carolina in WWI by reading the History of the North Carolina Council of Defense online in the digital WWI Collection of the North Carolina Digital Collections, a joint effort of the State Library of North Carolina and the State Archives of North Carolina.

 

 

 

This blog post is part of the State Archives of North Carolina’s World War I Social Media Project, an effort to bring original WWI archival materials to the public through the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ (NCDNCR) various social media platforms, in order to increase access to the items during the WWI centennial celebration by the state of North Carolina.

Between February 2017 and June 2019, the State Archives of North Carolina will be posting blog articles, Facebook posts, and Twitter posts, featuring WWI archival materials which are posted on the exact 100th anniversary of their creation during the war. Blog posts will feature interpretations of the content of WWI documents, photographs, diary entries, posters, and other records, including scans of the original archival materials, held by the State Archives of North Carolina, and will be featured in NCDNCR’s WWI centennial blog.