UNCG Campus Weekly

Campus Weekly is published each Wednesday when classes are in session. In the summer, it is published biweekly.

Sacrifice and service during WWI at UNCG

In World War I, the students of State Normal & Industrial College (UNCG) were immersed in the war effort. As Campus Weekly has noted, the campus hosted a big war bonds rally featuring Charlie Chaplin. But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Kathelene Smith, artifacts, textiles and digital projects archivist, says the students at the women’s college did a lot – and they wanted to leave for posterity what they had done. The Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives preserves much of that material – from scrapbooks and photographs to letters and booklets.

The university has even preserved uniforms belonging to the campus’ second physician, Dr. Anna Gove, who volunteered for the Red Cross to help the orphans of war-ravaged France.

Smith and Beth Ann Koelsch, curator of the Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Collection, have taught about these sacrifices and initiatives in sessions for Dr. Paul Mazgaj‘s “History of World War I” class. They utilize UNCG’s World War I era history to help students learn to use archives and primary sources in a hands-on way. Koelsch finds Gove’s story particularly interesting.

Women doctors were not allowed to join the Army Medical Corps, Koelsch explains, so some joined the American Red Cross and then attach themselves unofficially to the Army Nurse Corps, which is what Gove did. “Gove was an amazing woman,” she says.

The students on this campus during WWI were patriotic and proud, Smith says, as they looked far beyond themselves.

Inspired by Gove, they formed a campus branch of the Red Cross Auxiliary, Smith notes. They knitted and sewed and created lots of bandaging.

The literary societies chose to forego their big banquets, using that money for the war effort. They took what they would have spent on dresses, and donated that.

Students established the “campus guard” to keep the grounds in good shape, freeing up men for farm work labor or service overseas.

Some student “carpenterettes” built a YWCA hut in Peabody Park. It was used by students for decades.

Ten student ‘farmerettes” worked a city-owned farm on the edge of the city. They grew and canned thousands of gallons of tomatoes and beans, Smith says.

“Food conservation was vital,” Smith explains. This type of effort on the homefront was known as “the second line of defense.”

In outreach to the community, faculty – in an effort led by President Julius Foust and faculty member Minnie Lou Jamison – taught courses on such topics as how to conserve meat, how to make use of substitutes for things such as sugar, etc.

Jamison even built a community dryer on campus, for drying fruits and vegetables, a 1918 Alumnae News notes. The college reached out to the Women’s Defense League of Guilford County, so they could make use of it, she adds.

Various speakers were invited to campus, University Archivist Erin Lawrimore notes. One student cited in Foust’s unpublished memoir noted a few: “Capt. Fallon, the fiery little Irish officer with part of a hand blown away at Gallipoli; the tall, handsome French officer who told grand spy stories; Charlie Chaplin, trailed by a battalion of small boys, selling Liberty Bonds on the campus.”

The students bought these Liberty Bonds. They observed Meatless Tuesdays and Wheatless Wednesdays, to help the United States save food. They donated to the war “friendship fund.”

It was a time of overt patriotism and sacrifice. “They were proud of it,” Smith explains. “Our girls were contributing 100 percent to the war effort.”

In next Campus Weekly: a closer look at Charlie Chaplin’s visit to UNCG in 1918.

By Mike Harris
Visual from Pauline Green scrapbook in University Archives. On the picture’s page is written ‘Nov. 11, 1918” and the words “all for peace.” That date was Armistice Day. On that day, the students were awakened before 4 a.m. by news of peace, they celebrated at a bonfire on the hockey field, and they assembled for a parade at 9 a.m., according to the Dec. 1918 State Normal Magazine and E.A. Bowles’ “A Good Beginning.”

Earlier stories in this series:
Charlie Chaplin roused the crowds at UNCG
Buy WWI Liberty Bonds, Chaplin told 5,000 on campus