From the December 1942 issue of Carolina Magazine:
THE Carolina coed is going to war. Shoved into relative obscurity by the more immediate problem of expanding the Pre-Flight school, temporarily subordinated to the outcome of the 18-19-year-old draft legislation, the question of the coed’s status in Carolina’s war college, her ultimate fate in the university’s new educational system is at last coming into the limelight.
The accelerating tempo of the war has brought an unprecedented challenge to every woman in every college and university in the country, and women students here, as their sister students elsewhere, are demanding answers to their questions, “What is going to happen to us? Will we be allowed to remain at Carolina? Where will we go next year — or next quarter even?”
The actual truth of the matter is — nobody knows.
Rumors as to what the future holds for the coed have flown from Graham Memorial to Woollen gym, back across by the naval area and up through the quadrangle. The most famous of these came from a small campus group which divulged the confidential information that all coeds were to be packed in the proverbial lock, stock and barrel manner and sped to the fair city of Greensboro where they would be allowed to pursue their various studies beneath the quiet and pensive oaks on ye olde Woman’s College campus. Upon receipt of this choice bit of news the irate populace of Alderman, McKeever and Archer House promptly made frantic plans for revolution should execution of such a threat be attempted.
Next rumor on the hit parade, eventually squelched by the inhabitants of Kenan, Spencer and the sorority houses, had it that coeds would be kicked off the campus, bounced out of town, chased beyond the county limits, and there left to shift for themselves, preferably in the direction of an East Carolina tobacco patch or a New England airplane factory.
From the office of the dean of the War College comes the only official word on the subject of coeds and their place in the future of the university. The statement issued by Dean Bradshaw is brief almost to the point of disappearance. “We know nothing definite. Your officials are in constant touch with the proper authorities and as soon as we learn anything at all conclusive we will immediately pass it on to the student body. The main problem facing us at this time is where we can house eight bundled women when the Pre-Flight school takes over their dormitories.” He did not say if the Pre-Flight school takes over the dormitories.
In the meantime, the war goes on. What are the coeds, as an integral part of the student body, going to do?
In the first place, at the end of this quarter there must, of necessity, be a complete reconsideration of the academic program for women. In order to remain as students at Carolina, women will have to adapt their scholastic schedules to meet the demands of the speeded up war program. In place of excessive liberal art courses must come classes in mathematics, sciences, foreign languages, and social services. Training in fields branded as temporarily unnecessary will be slashed to a minimum; concentration will be on the nation’s needs in health fields, in diplomatic services and special investigations, in scientific research, in business and industry and in trained personnel for schools and colleges.
The increasing- urgency for preparing women now for what lies immediately ahead cannot be stressed too emphatically. Dr. Edward C. Elliott, Chief of the Division of Technical and Professional Personnel of the War Manpower Commission, recently stated, “All women college students are under obligation to participate directly either in very necessary community service, in war production or in service with the armed forces.”
By no means does this indicate that sight is being lost of the values of education, especially of the college education; it is held at a premium. There is no retraction of nor lessening of emphasis on the statement that the reservoir of educated leadership must be maintained. For those upon whose shoulders will fall the tremendous responsibility of solving the peace there must be a thorough understanding of the social, economic, political and intellectual forces which characterize this war period.
But before peace comes the war.
Coeds in our university are going to be forced to make extremely important and difficult decisions. To make the best of her abilities the coed must decide between the urgency of the immediate war needs and the desirability for further professional training to aid her at a somewhat later date.
To a much greater degree than for men the University of North Carolina still tends to retain the “education as usual” attitude for women students. The larger percentage of coeds here are continuing to major in the arts and humanities. True, these are vital in the total cultural pattern but only if the war is won. At winter quarter registration coeds will be urged to take courses not because they want them but because such subjects are training for the war effort.
Although the draft does not as yet affect them, under present conditions coeds should plan their individual programs to equip them to fill a position at the end of each quarter in case the crisis becomes so acute that the national welfare demands their services or in the event that the housing problem becomes so acute as to cause their departure from the campus.
Specifically, exactly what choices are open to the woman student upon the completion or curtailment of her college career?
For those militaristic females who yearn for the chance to don uniforms and snappy hats the WAACS and the WAVES are literally begging for enlistments. These glamorized secretaries of the Army and the Navy are campaigning to double their numbers by the middle of next year. But unless you are 21 years old and already know a good deal of typing and shorthand these ranks are not for you.
The Committee on College Women Students and the War recognizes that, at the moment, one of the great needs for ithe services of women is in nursing. This is primarily a woman’s profession and the present shortage of nurses constitutes a problem that deserves the attention of every educated woman. The call for these angels of mercy comes from every branch of the armed forces, from the areas of concentration of population for war production, and from quirements for service as a nurse in communities that are now so inadequately served that the health of their people is jeopardized. Minimum rebranch of the armed forces — single and under 40 years of age.
This is, likewise, an auspicious time for women to study medicine and here at Carolina is one of the country’s finest medical schools. Women doctors are in demand for civilian practice, teaching, and various fields of medical research.
In pharmacy, research problems are tremendous and the calls to the university’s employment office for women pharmacists for service in hospitals and pharmacies far outnumber the available trained supply. Psychiatric social workers are in great demand by the Red Cross for work with the Army and the Navy.
In the production plants and factories there is already an unfulfilled demand for college women. Before considering this field college graduates should take individual inventory of their other possible services, some of which may prove distinctive contributions to the war efforts; for example, the national teaching shortages. A woman without a college background can learn to rivet and weld as well as the graduate, but only the latter is able to train the minds of America’s youth.
For students with majors already completed or nearing completion in the liberal arts, there are various jobs open. On newspapers women journalists are fast taking over the majority of formerly “only-men-hired” positions. Recreation in or near army, navy and marine bases is still an important field for dramatic art students. Applications and inquiries concerning this type of work should be addressed to the USO headquarters in Washington.
In almost every known field men are being rapidly replaced by women. No college student should encounter difficulty finding a job. Whether it is the job she really wants and was planned for is another matter entirely.
It must never be forgotten that women who have had the advantage of college education should be prepared to furnish effective leadership. In the past much of the training for leadership has come through participation in extracurricular activities. These same activities need now to be brought directly into the war training program. For this reason coeds at Carolina are urged to relate themselves with some of the many student organizations — with the various publications, student planning committees, clubs and so on. Responsibility for planning and executing our student war program is, for the larger part, in student hands.
Women in college are enlisted for the duration.