The Wells College community had been participating in the war effort before the United States entered World War II. The American Red Cross had begun training students, women in the faculty, and women from the village. The College and village had also raised money for Bundles for Britain and the United China Relief Fund, including an old-fashioned fair in Smith Hall during January 1941.
When the United States entered the war in December 1941, the Wells community changed. Faculty members went on leave to perform war work. Students were also involved in the war effort. The basement of Smith Hall was set up as a hospital ward for students taking first aid and nursing courses. Twenty nine students volunteered to help farmers with early planting, and students learned to care for cows and run tractors. Courses on nutrition, typing, shorthand, Morse code, carpentry, glasswork, electrical wiring, and car repair were also offered.
Air raid shelters were set up in each of the building, and the community performed two trial blackouts. An aircraft spotting post was set up on the hill manned around the clock by students, faculty members, and villagers. On Tuesday nights, the school had defense dinners and economy meals to save money to be used for war causes. Many Alumnae joined the armed forces through organizations such as WAVES – United States Naval Reserve (Women’s Reserve) or Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service – or WAC – Women’s Army Corps. When the war ended, the Wells College coach, filled with students, participated in the VJ Day Parade in Auburn on September 4th, 1945.
After the war, many of the extracurricular courses were ended. While enrollment ticked down during the war years, the 1945-1946 academic year saw a boom in enrollment. One lasting change to the College during the war was the new academic calendar. On 1943 the school calendar changed to open on September 1, with exams before Christmas and a second term ending on May 22. Slight modifications were made to the calendar again on 1993, but the 1943 changes have lasted.
From Jane Marsh Dieckmann’s “Wells College: A History” pages 157-161 and the print collection of the Wells College Archives.
Tiffany Raymond ’10 Reference and Instruction Librarian Wells College Long Library