Research Log #2

Over the past week I have been researching the 1940s at Mary Washington College and it is astonishing just how quickly the College changed in the first couple years of the decade. The obvious reason for the changes that took place at Mary Washington College was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 which brought the U.S. into the Second World War.

As the likelihood of war steadily grew in Asia and Europe throughout the 1930s interestingly, “most Mary Washington students tended to ignore it, their interests focused on more immediate matters, especially social and romantic ones.”[1] This was not unusual for most Americans of the time but, needless to say, the willful ignorance of the American public and the student body of Mary Washington College was shattered by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.

The outbreak of the Second World War had a surprisingly patriotic effect on the student body of Mary Washington College. But the student body was not the only part of the college that developed an overwhelming sense of patriotism. “Faculty as well as students were heavily involved in the war. Like the students, they contributed financial support; at one point 100 percent of faculty and staff were enrolled in the systematic purchase of war bonds. Beyond that, many participated more directly by taking leaves of absence to enlist in the military. At least fifteen male and five female faculty did so, with several of the women becoming officers.”[2] The sheer number of faculty, male and female, who left to go fight in the war must have had a huge impact on the classroom experience at the College. To lose any faculty would have stressed any educational institution but to lose that many was probably especially taxing. With many men heading off to fight in the war, women had to step in to fill up the positions left open by men. This means that we can expect that there would have probably been an uptick in the number of female professors teaching classes that had been previously been taught by men. This change in roles served as a huge source of pride for women during and after the war.

Below is a picture of the Mary Washington College Veterans sitting on the steps of Monroe Hall taken in 1948.

Mary Washington Veterans

1. Crawley, William B. University of Mary Washington: A Centennial History, 1908-2008. Fredericksburg, VA: University of Mary Washington, 2008, 44.
 2. Crawley, University of Mary Washington: A Centennial History, 1908-2008, 47.




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