Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Stephens: A Look Back - 1918

The United States got involved in the First World War in 1917 and Stephens College students were quick to do their part.

They gave up butter and fudge and took up knitting that year, the 1918 Stephensophia tells us. The yearbook is full of patriotic images and opens with a series of drawings showing support for the American Red Cross.

The book is dedicated to those “who are making the sacrifices in order that the world may be free.” We’re also told:

“Stephens girls have this year in work and sacrifice and spirit tried to bear their part in the Great War which is to bring to the world the freedom and opportunity that is theirs. In the spirit of these opportunities and these obligations this record of their college year is conceived and dedicated.”

It was a year of growth for the college, too, with enrollment up 50 percent over the year prior. This is the year Wood Hall is built, as well.

The yearbook does include the joke section found in previous editions. One Stephensophia staff member quipped that she was going to name her son Stephen and her daughter Sophia.

But mostly, this is a year of war, and that’s a theme reflected throughout the entire Stephens yearbook.

In what’s titled a “Military” section, readers are given a scenario in which a student from 1918 is now older and visiting Stephens on Nov. 22, 1960. She tells the 1960 students: “When I was here the Great World War was raging. Scarcely a day passed that we didn’t see boys in khaki at the college.” Some were leaving for training, we’re told, and others were getting read to go “over there.” Half of the Stephens students, the Stephensophia says, were reading letters with the “red triangle” on them, some postmarked “Somewhere in France.”

The alumna tells the 1960 students that students enjoyed knitting sweaters, socks and scarves for soldiers. “You consider it old fashioned, don’t you?” our 1918 alumna asks. “It’s queer, but I did, too, until then.”

She also tells the 1960 students that the students of 1918 knitted at dinner. “Now don’t look so shocked,” the alumna says. “It wasn’t looked upon as a breach of etiquette then.”

The Stephensophia also includes a letter to a Private Nelson Miles serving in France. Students tout that the college went 100 percent for Uncle Same when the third Liberty Loan was inaugurated. Later, we learn that every student and employee subscribed to the loan program.

“Well,” the author of the letter writes, “we also voted unanimously to give up butter for dinner every day until school is out. You would hardly believe it, but the money saved on that butter amounts to fifty dollars and with that money we have bought a fifty-dollar bond.”

Students also cut back on sugar and developed a taste for “war bread.”

Students welcomed “Mr. Popcorn and Miss Peanut,” too, which we’re told were “more patriotic friends” than the expensive sugary fudge and bon bons that students had been used to.

Stephens organized a Red Cross chapter this year which was a branch of the Columbia chapter. Here are the Red Cross volunteers:

Although mostly a patriotic, if not somber, book this year, one of the funniest lines in the yearbook is an ad for future Stephensophia staffers. “Dispositions ruined!” the ad promises. “Simple and painless.”

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