This past week I have had the privilege of researching a few scrapbooks, made by the women of Mary Washington College themselves. Glued and taped to the fading and worn pages of these seventy year old books, were unique glimpses into the lives and feelings of these students. In particular, the scrapbook constructed by Emma Elizabeth Collins Burke, turned about to be a veritable gold mine of information pertaining to this project. In her scrapbook she taped report cards, class schedules, and test papers, as well as invitations to dances, and articles from “The Bullet.”
Today, the University of Mary Washington’s “Undergraduate Course Catalogue “is over 250 pages long[i], a stark contrast from the college’s seven-page catalogue
from1941. The catalogue is indeed so thin that is was easily glued into a scrapbook later made by Burke. There may not have been as many classes as we have today, but there was a decent range of subjects (fourteen in all)[ii] for the women to choose from. Most of the course subjects would be familiar to students today (like math, history, and foreign languages), but a few, such as “Dietics and Home Economics,”[iii] are a little different from the kinds of classes UMW students today are used to.
One of the most interesting things Burke put into her scrapbook was a paper she had written for one of her classes on August 6, 1940. Clearly proud of her work (she got an A- on the paper), she was also quick to note that the class this paper was written for was no walk in the park, writing next to the paper “what a tough course!”[iv]
One final piece of Burke’s MWC history that was taped into her scrapbook was her report card. This “Quarterly Grade
Report,” dated June 8, 1940, is a great way to see not only what classes students could have taken, but how they chose to pair them to make their schedule. During this quarter, Burke (then Collins) took six classes: Survey of American Lit (Eng 263), American History (His 153), History of Civilization (His 263), Latin (Lat 113), Survey of Music (Mus 113), and General Psychology (Psy 219).[v] Who knows, maybe one of these classes from 1940 will be the one HIST 328 will recreate in 2012.
While these class schedules, test papers, and report cards will be invaluable when it comes time to recreate a typical classroom experience (the unlimited goal of this project), there was one aspect of life that was mentioned in every scrapbook from the 1940s I looked at. While it was not directly related to classes, there is no doubt that it had a profound effect on the students. I’m speaking of course about World War II. In Burke’s scrapbook, she taped an article from the Bullet about Hitler vs. U.S. Presidents and their viewpoints and captioned it “December 7, 1941 -That momentous day!” [vi] Much like 9/11 dominated the topics of conversation in and outside the classroom, the attacks on Pearl Harbor, would certainly have affected life in the classroom for MWC students.
One of the scrapbooks I looked at, entitled “Victory,” was completely devoted to the work of the “Mary Washington College Defense Program.”[vii] This program’s mission was to help the men fighting in the war through the sale of war bonds. The women had drives to help sell the bonds, asked faculty and staff to make pledges, and even a contest for a “Bond Queen.”[viii] The amount of success they had in their efforts was astonishing. Between 1942 and 1945, the women raised $45,173.64 for the war bond effort. Women working at a War Bond drive at the college were even featured in a Treasury Department Bulletin entitled “A War Savings Handbook for Colleges at War.” The women were pictured standing around a sign saying “If you want them back- back them!” [ix]In 1945, Mary Washington College was even presented with a certificate from the United States Treasury Department “For distinguished service rendered on behalf of the War Finance Program.” [x]
These scrapbooks have, both directly and indirectly, brought us one step closer to being able to recreate a true classroom experience.
[i] Emma Elizabeth Collins Burke. UMW Archives, Scrapbook 1940-1942.
[ii] Emma Elizabeth Collins Burke. UMW Archives, Scrapbook 1940-1942.
[iii] Emma Elizabeth Collins Burke. UMW Archives, Scrapbook 1940-1942.
[iv] Emma Elizabeth Collins Burke. UMW Archives, Scrapbook 1940-1942.
[v] Emma Elizabeth Collins Burke. UMW Archives, Scrapbook 1940-1942.
[vi] Emma Elizabeth Collins Burke. UMW Archives, Scrapbook 1940-1942.
[vii] Mary Washington College Defense Program. Victory. UMW Archives, Scrapbook.
[viii] Mary Washington College Defense Program. Victory. UMW Archives, Scrapbook.
[ix] Mary Washington College Defense Program. Victory. UMW Archives, Scrapbook.
[x] Mary Washington College Defense Program. Victory. UMW Archives, Scrapbook.