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Dances, Bands, and Pageants: Women and Entertainment at Camp Adair

Students in Dr. Marisa Chappell’s fall 2023 History 363 “Women in U.S. History” class spent the final three weeks of Fall Quarter 2023 in OSU’s Special Collections and Archives Research Center exploring women in Camp Adair’s history.

By Alexandra Collins, Brandon Cunningham, and Maitreya Lake

World War II was a trying time in the United States. Even though the country avoided much of the war’s physical destruction, American military and industrial participation created significant upheaval. Entertainment thus played an important role, offering feelings of comfort and community and lightening the load of challenging times. As we explored the various entertainment options for service members at Camp Adair, we were struck by the prominence of women. Women were essential in organizing events, performing, and participating in social activities. This was not new; women had historically been called upon to serve as morale-boosters for male soldiers, particularly during wartime. This was not different at Camp Adair.

A glamour shot of actress Strelsa Leeds, announcing her appearance at Camp Adair in the play “Junior Miss” in February 1943.

A striking example appeared in the Camp Adair Sentry, the camp’s newspaper, in February 1943. The newspaper announced a visiting performance of a Broadway production called “Junior Miss.” The show’s two headliners, Helen Eastman and Lucille Fetherston, play “two teenage girls who prance through three acts of devastating beauty” in a comedy that provides “hilarious and warm-hearted fun.” The description of the play emphasizes comfort and stability, while the caption beneath a glamorous headshot of actress Ellen Curtis refers to her as a “beauteous blond.”[1] Women often played a key role in performances for soldiers.[2]

Another example, captured a photograph, is the 1943 “Little Colonel” contest (see below).[3] The Oregon State Barometer, which included additional photographs, described a shooting contest among “girls” who were nominated on the basis of “beauty and personality alone.” The top shooters would earn titles using a diminutive form of military ranks, from “Little Colonel” for first place to “Little Second Lieutenant” for fifth, with winners announced at a “‘GI’ Military Ball,” where “Miss ‘Dead-Eye Dick’” would “Rule Over Dance.”[4]

“College women with 1903 Springfield rifles, circa 1943,” Oregon Digital.

A humorous article from the Barometer in October 1942 highlights the emphasis on women’s appearance, even outside of entertainment venues. In “Pigtails Irksome to Men, Says One With Keen Eye,” Normal Sholseth complained about women students’ hairstyles. “What has happened to those super-glamorous sweeping bobs?” he asked. “Okay, so it does take 15 minutes to put up the mop, but after all look in the mirror and see results.” Sholseth suggests that women’s appearance was important to men, the “fellow [who] rolls out of a warm bunk just to report to an 8 o’clock gym class,” the “harassed manhood of Oregon State.”[5] The article shows that ordinary women, not just entertainers, were being held to particular standards of feminine appearance and seen as a visual source of entertainment.

This photograph from the Sentry depicts the staff of one of several USO clubs in communities around Camp Adair. Camp Adair Sentry, October 8, 1943, 8.

Women also played a central role in organizing and participating in social activities for Camp Adair’s servicemen. Many women served as “hostesses” with the United Service Organization (USO), creating and staffing recreational spaces and generally providing female company for servicemen far from home. October 1942, the Barometer informed “co-eds who wish to volunteer” in hospitality programs at Camp Adair to fill out an application in the “dean of women’s office for membership in the Corvallis Victory volunteers,” through which they can “indicate interests in Junior Hostess groups, serve as dancing partners for service men at chaperoned dances” or “indicate preferences to serve as hostesses for handicraft, games or other recreational activities at the USO center.” The article also noted that “some evidence of family sanction should be on file in the dean of women’s office, for those girls who plan to accept invitations to officers’ dances at the camp or to volunteer to go to enlisted men’s dances.”[6] The job of hostess was discussed by Barbara Martin in a book of collected memories of Camp Adair. Martin described her experience living near Camp Adair as a young woman and noted that many local girls saw the influx of servicemen as an opportunity to expand their circle of friendships and romantic opportunities. In fact, Martin would end up marrying a serviceman who was stationed at Camp Adair.[7]

The various examples of women as entertainment at Camp Adair point to the different kinds of roles they played. The historian Meghan Winchell argues that the USO’s senior hostesses served as surrogate mothers to soldiers, providing the physical and emotional comforts of home, while the USO “depended upon junior hostesses to use their beauty and sexual appeal to entice men into USO clubs.”[8] Women entertainers were also sexualized, and there was an emphasis on women appearing feminine and attractive to men, another way that women were used to emphasize the masculinity of male servicemembers.[9]

[1] “‘Junior Miss’ to Be Here Feb. 20,” Camp Adair Sentry, February 11, 1943, 1.

[2] Sherrie Tucker, “‘And, Fellas, They’re American Girls!’: On the Road with the Sharon Rogers All-Girl Band,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies 16, no. 2/3 (1996): 128-160.

[3] “College women with 1903 Springfield rifles, circa 1943,” Oregon Digital.

[4] “‘Little Colonel’ Candidates Shoot It Out For Honor to Reign Over Military Dance,” Oregon State Barometer, April 30, 1943, 1.

[5] Norman Sholseth, “Pigtails Irksome to Men, Says One With Keen Eye,” Oregon State Barometer, October 24, 1942, 1.

[6] “College Officials Set New Policy For Camp Adair,” Oregon State Barometer, October 23, 1942, 1.

[7] Barbara Martin, “A View of History,” Camp Adair: 50 Years Ago (Dallas, OR: Polk County Museum Association, 1992), 61.

[8] Meghan K. Winchell, “‘To Make the Boys Feel at Home’: USO Senior Hostesses and Gendered Citizenship,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies 25, No. 1 (2004), 200.

[9] Marilyn E. Hegarty, Victory Girls, Khaki-Wackies, and Patriotutes: The Regulation of Female Sexuality During World War II (New York, NY: New York University Press, 2010).

Mixed in Classification: The Paradox of Gender Roles in Media and the Mobilization of Women at Camp Adair

Students in Dr. Marisa Chappell’s fall 2023 History 363 “Women in U.S. History” class spent the final three weeks of Fall Quarter 2023 in OSU’s Special Collections and Archives Research Center exploring women in Camp Adair’s history.

By Maia Merims-Johnson, Gideon Lerner, and Matthew Johnson

Camp Adair was established in 1942 as a training camp during World War II, and its main source of media, the Camp Adair Sentry, launched on March 11, 1942. This military-run newspaper aimed to boost morale and foster communication in the camp. Women were front and center in the Sentry, and their portrayal forces us to reconcile with the paradox of the 1940s media, which presented both empowering and infantilizing depictions of women. The Sentry followed a similar pattern, both reflecting and challenging dominant gender norms. Camp Adair serves as a microcosm of women’s complex place in American society during World War II, as the photography in its newspaper demonstrates.

This photograph appeared in The Camp Adair Sentry on October 22, 1943. Featured in what was considered masculine clothing at the time and doing work considered men’s work, McPoil and Williams might be seen as empowered, challenging the limitations imposed on women. The caption seeks to undermine that potential, suggesting readers picture them in bathing suits and comparing their work to the role of wife.

A photograph in the October 22, 1943 issue of the Sentry provides insight into the complexities of gender in a workplace increasingly occupied by women during the war. It features Wanda McPoil and Alta Williams posed in front of an open-engine service vehicle.[1] The caption, “They Got Mixed in Classification,” implies that there had been a mistake in the women’s work assignment and that the notion of women serving as truck drivers or post engineers was inherently confusing. The caption conjures images of the women in bathing suits – “put a bathing suit on them and you’d swear these two girls should be on the beach at Waikiki” – before minimizing their labor with the comment that “they handle those ton-and-a-halfs as easily as if they were husbands.”[2] The language reflects the skepticism women faced when entering previously male-dominated industries during the war. The photograph is actually unusual for the newspaper in portraying the women wearing pants, flannel, and jackets; a majority of photographs in the Sentry featured women dressed in highly feminized clothing, many of them movie stars and other entertainers. By framing the photograph of women performing skilled manual trades, the reductive and patronizing comments in the caption mark McPoil’s and Williams’ work as unusual. This suggests that women entering these fields continued to face opposition, even if it was quieted by concerns for national defense.

Miss Ruth Kary was a Sentry Billfold Girl of the Week in March 1943. A typical glamour shot, the photograph is accompanied by a description of Kary as a “charm provider” for Boeing test pilots.

Visual media, a key component of wartime mobilization, clearly struggled to reconcile necessary changes to gender roles brought by the war and the expectations of pre-war gender constructs. As the author Adhis Chetty argued, the need for women’s labor in previously male-dominated jobs led American media provocateurs to challenge gendered expectations of labor that had dominated the national consciousness prior to the war. Propaganda “present[ed] the image of an empowered woman, able to accept responsibility for her life, and in a position to galvanize other women to take action for themselves.”[3] At the same time, unwilling to challenge the prevailing notion of women as subordinate to men, propagandists also emphasized images of women that marked them as unsuited to serious work and independence. The media scholar Steve Dillon argued that in the 1940s, in particular, “male heterosexual desire” was ubiquitous in media, which catered to the male gaze.[4]

The Camp Adair Sentry regularly portrayed women in aggressively gendered ways designed to appeal to male readers. For example, the “Billfold Girl of the Week” feature was specifically designed for the “boys” to ogle. Miss Ruth Kary, the Billfold Girl featured on March 11, 1943, was described as a “charm provider” for test pilots at Boeing Aircraft. The caption also included a Sergeant complaining about not seeing enough of Kary.[5]

The Associated Press photographer who snapped this picture, which appeared in the June 18, 1942 issue of the Sentry, thought it wise to frame the photograph from a low angle, allowing viewers to see up Dona Drake’s bathing skirt.

This rhetoric of entitlement around portrayals of women’s bodies not only reinforced but amplified the belief among readers at Camp Adair that women existed largely for male entertainment. Indeed, despite the many contributions women made to the functioning of Camp Adair, media portrayals are heavily skewed toward women’s appearance.

A particularly egregious example appeared in June 1942, when the Sentry featured an image of “movie-starlet Dona Drake” in a two-piece bathing suit, photographed from below (Figure 3).[6]

The visual portrayals of women in the Sentry reflect the challenges of wartime, which threatened to transform existing gender roles and power relations. Its seemingly confused and contradictory depiction of women can be understood as part of a larger national campaign designed, in Adhis Chetty’s words, “to persuade women to join the war waged by men and, in doing so, render loyal service to a male-dominated country in a male-dominated war.”[7]

[1] Claudia D. Goldin, “The Role of World War II in the Rise of Women’s Employment,” The American Economic Review 81, no. 4 (1991): 741-756.

[2] “They Got Mixed in Classification,” Camp Adair Sentry, October 22, 1943, 3.

[3] Adhis Chetty, “Media Images of Women During War: Vehicles of Patriarchy’s Agenda?” Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity 59 (2004), 36.

[4] Steve Dillon, Wolf-Women and Phantom Ladies: Female Desire in 1940s U.S. Culture (Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1998), 4.

[5] “Billfold Girl . . . of the Week,” Camp Adair Sentry, March 11, 1943, 9.

[6] “Catch!” Camp Adair Sentry, June 18, 1942, 5.

[7] Chetty, “Media Images of Women During War,” 36.

Adair Village Mothers Club: Invisible Community Builders in the Postwar Era

Students in Dr. Marisa Chappell’s fall 2023 History 363 “Women in U.S. History” class spent the final three weeks of Fall Quarter 2023 in OSU’s Special Collections and Archives Research Center exploring women in Camp Adair’s history.

By Molly Bransetter, Gracie Kreitzer, and Emma Miller

Aerial view of Adair Village, when it served as housing for married OSC students. Image from Oregon Digital, accessed December 7, 2023.
“Married students at Adair Village housing for veterans.” Image from Oregon Digital, accessed November 30, 2023.

After World War II, Oregon State College (OSC) established married student housing on the old Camp Adair military site, calling it Adair Village. Married student housing became a necessity in the years after World War II, when the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, or GI Bill, gave returning soldiers the opportunity to pursue higher education subsidized by the federal government. Student enrollment across the country soared. A 1964 article in the New York Times noted that in response to the influx, including at OSC, where “returning veterans created [an] enrollment boom in the post-war years – nearly 7,500 students by 1947,” a growth that “continued through the 1950s.”[1] Many new students were married. A 1964 New York Times article noted that as late as 1961, “American universities provided housing for 47,780 married couples.”[2] OSC was no exception; it established Adair Village in 1946 to house students with families. Much like in the postwar era’s rapidly developing suburban neighborhoods, women in Adair Village took on homemaking and community building roles. Members of Adair Village’s Mothers Club were especially active, organizing dances and holiday parties, child care and early education, and fundraising activities. Through these activities, the Mothers Club brought residents of Adair Village together and created a sense of community.

We researched the Adair Village Mothers Club in archival collections and newspapers at SCARC. A 1956 dissertation by Dan Poling, who served as Dean of Men from 1947 through the early 1970s, chronicled the establishment and operation of Adair Village. Poling, who was pursuing a doctorate in Education at the University of Oregon, was exploring solutions to the problems facing married students, and discussed “the impact of World War II upon institutions of higher education.” We focused specifically on a section about Village activities, which describes in detail the events and clubs organized by Adair Village women. Poling describes the Mothers Club as providing recreational and educational activities such as sponsoring a play school and play center for Adair Village. As the club developed, though, its attention expanded beyond child care to other community needs.[3]

Mothers Club activities are chronicled in other sources, as well. Adair Village’s newspaper, Community Spirit, which was run by the Community Church Board, frequently discussed the activities of the Adair Village Mothers Club, which was very active. The newspaper chronicles its extensive community work, from holding thrift sales to hosting Saturday night dances.[4] The Adair Village Directory, published in late 1949, included the Mothers Club in its list of “Who’s Who” in the community.[5]

Archival and newspaper sources provide limited information about specific Mothers Club members or other women at the postwar Adair Village. The Adair Village Directory included a list of club officers: Jean Koester (President), Lorene Reid (Vice President), Jo Otto (Secretary), Ruth Osburne (Treasurer), Martha Hagan (Play School Coordinator), and Joyce Kelly and Virginia Nelson (teachers).[6] It appears that these and many women residing in Adair Village were not OSC students themselves but rather the wives of male students; they do not appear in university documents or published sources such as the Beaver Yearbook and the Daily Barometer.

This photo from the University of Chicago in 1961 illustrates the typical situation of married students in the postwar era: the husband was the student, while the wife served as primary caretaker of the children, community builders, and often engaged in paid work, as well. “Married Student Housing, 1961,” from “Married Women and the Postwar University,” On Equal Terms: Educating Women at the University of Chicago, Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago.

This invisibility suggests how much women’s community-building work went uncredited in the postwar period. The Mothers Club was open to all women, not just mothers, which also suggests how closely tied women’s identities and roles were to family and motherhood.

OSC and other universities responded to the needs of World War II veterans by expanding housing for married students and student families, and women’s unpaid labor turned that housing into communities. This history prompts many questions. How did these same universities respond to the growing enrollment of women, who outnumbered male undergraduates by the 1980s?[7] Oregon State University’s housing website notes that currently, applicants generally wait between sixteen and twenty-four months for family housing, suggesting that the need is significant.[8] Benton County, like most of the state, also has a severe shortage of child care slots.[9] Why are these needs seemingly so acute? And finally, how the labor of community building changed as women’s employment rates increased in the decades after World War II?

[1] Larry Landis, “Oregon State University,” Oregon Encyclopedia, accessed December 15, 2023.

[2] Allen Young, “Universities Across Country Spurred by Housing Demands of Married Students,” New York Times, January 16, 1964, 77.

[3] Dan Poling, “Adair Village: A Postwar Project in Community Living for Married Students of Oregon State College” (PhD dissertation, University of Oregon, 1956), Dan Poling Papers, Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, OR (hereafter SCARC), 132-141.


[5] “Who’s Who at Adair Village,” Adair Village Directory (Adair Village, OR: Adair Village Council, 1949, SCARC, 3.

[6] “Who’s Who at Adair Village,” 3.

[7] Oksana Leukhina and Amy Smaldone, “Why Do Women Outnumber Men in College Enrollment?” On the Economy Blog (Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis), March 15, 2022, accessed January 10, 2024.

[8]Family Housing Application,” Oregon State University, accessed December 5, 2023.

[9] Megan Pratt and Michaella Sektnan, “Oregon’s Child Care Deserts 2022: Mapping Supply by Age Group and Percentage of Publicly Funded Slots” (Oregon State University, College of Public Health and Human Sciences and Oregon Child Care Research Partnership, May 2023), accessed January 10, 2024.

Women’s Objectification in the Camp Adair Sentry

Students in Dr. Marisa Chappell’s fall 2023 History 363 “Women in U.S. History” class spent the final three weeks of Fall Quarter 2023 in OSU’s Special Collections and Archives Research Center exploring women in Camp Adair’s history.

By Emily Bakhshoudeh, London Hawes, and Maya Kirschenbaum

Women played many important roles at Camp Adair, a Benton County, Oregon World War II military training facility, but you wouldn’t know it by reading the camp’s official newspaper, the Camp Adair Sentry. Within its pages, women were valued largely for their beauty or simply relegated to the sidelines of the war effort. The sexualization and paternalistic treatment of Camp Adair women through events like the PX (post exchange) Girl Contest represents an intriguing counter-narrative to the popularly constructed story of heroic Rosie the Riveters assisting the Allied war effort.

This February 11, 1943 Camp Adair Sentry article discusses the PX girl contest, explaining to servicemen how they can elect their local PX manager to be the PX queen of the camp.
This article from the March 11, 1943 issue of the Sentry identifies the two finalists largely by their eye color.

The Camp Adair PX Girl Contest, held in 1943, exemplifies the objectification of women at the facility. A front-page column in the February 11 Sentry entitled “Elect Your PX Dream Girl!” discusses the voting rules for the contest and describes contestants, who were exclusively female PX managers, in sexualized terms solely based on their appearance. Directed at male service members, the article notes that the one who “rings your bell” could be “the cutie with the curves” or “the gal with the violet eyes, the miss with the miracle curves, the pretty little pumpkin with the pumpkins.”[1] Similarly, the March 11, 1943 edition of the Sentry focused on informing soldiers about voting for their favorite PX Girl and “celebrating” the beauty of female PX managers around the camp.[2] The same page features a conventionally attractive woman wearing a bathing suit posing seductively (see below). As with the prior month’s “PX Dream Girl” article, this photo’s caption characterizes the woman’s value in terms of her physical beauty.[3] While the Sentry does not tell us how the average soldier responded, it suggests how the officers who put the Sentry together viewed women. Women were sexualized and valued for their curves within its pages, and their importance to the war effort was mainly portrayed as gratifying the emotional and physical desires of soldiers. 

This front-page photo from the March 11, 1943 Camp Adair Sentry features a woman posed seductively with relatively little coverage of her body.
The winner of the PX Girl contest was announced in the March 18, 1943 issue of the Sentry.

The announcement of the PX Girl winner followed the same pattern. The March 18, 1943 issue reported Betty Frick, or “brown-eyed Betty,” succeeded in “getting the knob by 150 votes over pretty Dorothy Caldwell.”[4] As with previous depictions of contestants, this article refrains from commenting on any aspects of the women other than their physical attributes. Any mention of the winner’s personality, achievements, or contributions to the war effort are effaced. This kind of objectification was not confined to coverage of the PX Girl contest. For instance, the January 21, 1944 edition of the Sentry featured a photograph of Ruby Richards, fountain manager of PX 3, posing in a bathing suit (Figure 3). The caption described Richards as “lissome” and emphasized her vital statistics.[5]

This kind of objectification was common in the 1940s. According to historian Marilyn E. Hegarty, “magazines, movies, posters, and other media covertly and overtly urged wartime women to provide sexualized support for the military in various types of public and private entertainment.”[6] Historian Steven Dillon discusses the emergence of sexual culture during World War II by showing the rise in popularity of the sexualization of women in media consisting of film, magazines, comics, radio, and newspapers. This sexualization went beyond visual images. When discussing radio, for example, Dillon notes that “women are not just heard on the radio; they are viewed; even if listeners can’t see them, female characters are judged by what they look like.”[7] This phenomenon was not limited to the United States, either; scholar Marilyn Lake writes that “[a]dvertisements for cosmetics, fashioning a new sexualized femininity, incited [Australian] women to ‘reckless, red adventure’ and warned that ‘Fair Girls Ought to be Doubly Careful.”[8]

It is clear that objectification of women occurred on a large scale throughout the United States and beyond during World War II and was not limited to isolated locales such as Camp Adair. However, the consistent and government-approved sexualization of female camp members by the Camp Adair Sentry is a particularly salient example of the methods the military used to build troop morale and create gendered expectations of masculinity as well as femininity.

[1] “Elect Your PX Dream Girl! Contest Starts – The Rules,” Camp Adair Sentry, February 11, 1943, 1.

[2] “PX Girl Contest Judges Swamped,” Camp Adair Sentry, March 11, 1943, 1.

[3] “Positively Not GI,” Camp Adair Sentry, March 11, 1943, 1.

[4] “Betty Frick Winner of PX Girl Contest,” Camp Adair Sentry, March 18, 1943, 4.

[5] “No. 26: One Lump or Two, Sugar?”, Camp Adair Sentry 2, no. 40 (January 21, 1944).

[6] Marilyn E. Hegarty, “Patriot or Prostitute?: Sexual Discourses, Print Media, and American Women during World War II,” Journal of Women’s History 10, no. 2 (1998), 113

[7] Steven Dillon, Wolf-Women and Phantom Ladies: Female Desire in 1940’s US Culture (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2016), 4.

[8] Marilyn Lake, “The Desire for a Yank: Sexual Relations between Australian Women and American Servicemen during World War II,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 2, no. 4 (1992): 623.

The First Adair Village: Women at OSC’s Postwar Married Student Housing

Students in Dr. Marisa Chappell’s fall 2023 History 363 “Women in U.S. History” class spent the final three weeks of Fall Quarter 2023 in OSU’s Special Collections and Archives Research Center exploring women in Camp Adair’s history.

By Austin McCarville, Clare Buresh, and Felicity Howell

Pictured here is the Adair Village Council in 1950. The council is almost entirely male, excepting Mrs. B. Davis and Mrs. P. Pearson. From The Beaver, 1950.

Adair Village, a small community in Benton County, Oregon, is best known as a site of several military installations, most notably Camp Adair, a training cantonment during World War II. For several years in the late 1940s and early 1950s, though, the area was known as Adair Village, and it served as housing for married students attending Oregon State College (now Oregon State University) and their families. Archival materials at OSU’s Special Collections and Archives Research Center offer a unique window into the lives of women who, for a brief period of time, made the area their home.

We learned that Adair housed OSC students and their families in the papers of Dan W. Poling, who served as Dean of Men at OSC/OSU from 1947 to 1970. The papers included Poling’s dissertation, written for his Doctorate of Education at the University of Oregon in 1956, chronicling the creation and operation of married student housing at Adair, titled “Adair Village: A Post-War Project in Community Living for Married Students of Oregon State College.” Poling noted that federal legislation that funded temporary child care for working mothers during the war also “ma[de] possible the construction of Adair Village for married students of Oregon State College.” A section of the dissertation titled “Family Life Programs” details aspects of daily life, and we were drawn to Poling’s discussion of the Mother’s Club, which prompted us to investigate the lives of women and mothers in married student housing at Adair.[1]

The front page of The Community Spirit, November 19, 1948. The homemade style of the newsletter is markedly different from the professional style of The Camp Adair Sentry, published by the War Department when the area served as a World War II military training facility.

Poling noted that the Mother’s Club was open to all women in the community, not just mothers. Poling documented the club’s work to create and support the Little Beavers Play School and other activities and resources for children, including a community park, “Cordair.” He also mentioned that Adair residents wrote and published newsletters.[2] We worked with archivist Tiah Edmunson-Morton to locate issues of Community Spirit, a biweekly newspaper published by the “Village Church Board,” which ran from November 1948 through May 1950. The newsletter was created on a typewriter, included illustrations but not photographs, and was reproduced on a mimeograph machine, in purple ink. Its first editor was resident Larry Hagen, an OSC faculty member, but by 1949 it was being edited by Joyce Kelly, a teacher at Little Beavers Play School). Community Spirit, which editors hoped would be an “interesting, informative, and informal paper,” offers a unique window into the daily lives and activities of Adair’s women residents, particularly through its discussion of the Mother’s Club’s activities.[3]

The November 11, 1949 issue of Community Spirit mentions both specific women and various activities planned by the Mother’s Club. An upcoming Mother’s Club meeting would feature a Mrs. Eleanor Peters teaching members how to make candy and dip chocolate and discussion of a Thanksgiving Turkey raffle and the community dance schedule.[4] Another article featured Helen Ingram, a soloist in the church choir, who along with Virginia Nelson (a teacher at Little Beavers Play School) hoped to start a community choir.[5] Grace Harrington, who graduated from Julliard in concert piano performance, announced that she was accepting piano students.[6] And Maxine Morgan and Moira Tan wrote to the editor to share that the presence of pet dogs in their homes served as protection against “rude conduct” of the community’s maintenance workers.[7]

Two women provide childcare through Oregon State College’s Red Cross chapter. The Beaver, 1948.

One of the Mothers Club’s most significant contributions was providing activities for children, including educational programs and child care. The Adair Village Directory, also located in SCARC, called the Mother’s Club the “most active non-governmental group” in the community.[8] The Oregon State College newspaper, the Barometer, included advertisements for nursery school classes at the Little Beavers Play School, led by a Mrs. Katherine H. Reed, and for a Mothers Club rummage sale at the school.[9] After the school secured a permanent location in unit D-9, the Barometer announced an open house, organized by a Mrs. L.D. Marriage, in February 1948 to show off improvements made to the building. The improvements were performed by “mothers” who “cleaned, decorated, and remodeled the interior” and “fathers” who “assisted by constructing play equipment and individual lockers for the children,” reflecting a common division of labor in the mid twentieth century.[10] At least one other option for child care, Alameda Randall staffed a nursery at Adair.[11]

The participation by Adair women in clubs and volunteer work, particularly child-focused campaigns, is not surprising. It reflected a longer history. Since the late nineteenth century, American women had been busy forming clubs and working through them to influence women’s lives and society more generally. The General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC), founded in 1890, represented a wide variety of clubs, from mothers’ clubs and study clubs to gardening clubs and service clubs. And while the activities of women’s clubs might not seem very important, they had played a significant role in American history. According to historian Paige Meltzer, women’s clubs had been “critical contributor[s] to the women’s suffrage campaign, the creation of the Food and Drug Administration and the Children’s Bureau, and the passage of the Sheppard-Towner Maternity and Infancy Health Act,” which provided federal funding for infant and maternity health care programs in the 1920s. Meltzer argues that in the 1940s, the GFWC promoted the idea that American mothers were responsible “for the health of the individual family, the local community, and the nation.”[12]

For the short time that Adair housed married OSC students and their families, its women, in their roles as mothers, wives, teachers, and volunteers, were crucial to creating “community spirit.”

[1] Dan Poling, “Adair Village: A Postwar Project in Community Living for Married Students of Oregon State College” (PhD dissertation, University of Oregon, 1956), Dan Poling Papers, Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, OR (hereafter SCARC), 12, 133-134. For more on the legislation, see William M. Tuttle, Jr., “The American Family on the Home Front” in World War II and the American Home Front, ed. Marilyn M. Harper (Washington, DC: The National Historic Landmarks Program, 2007), 63.

[2] Poling, “Adair Village,” 133-134, 139-140, 108-109.

[3] Community Spirit, November 11, 1949 and Community Spirit, November 19, 1948, SCARC.

[4] “Mothers Club,” Community Spirit, November 11, 1949, SCARC, 1.

[5] “Helen Ingram Soloes,” Community Spirit, November 11, 1949, SCARC, 1.

[6] “Interesting People,” Community Spirit, November 11, 1949, SCARC, 2-3.

[7] Maxine Moira and Moira Tan to the Editor, Community Spirit, November 11, 1949, SCARC, 2.

[8] Adair Village Directory (Adair Village, OR: Adair Village Council, October 1949), SCARC, 2.

[9] “Council Approves $5 Increase in Registration Fees,” Oregon State Daily Barometer, December 2, 1947, 2; “Adair Village Mothers to Hold Rummage Sale,” Oregon State Daily Barometer, May 20, 1948, 1.

[10] “Little Beaver School to Have Open House,” Oregon State Daily Barometer, January 27, 1948, 1.

[11] “‘Who’s Who’ at Adair Village,” Adair Village Directory.

[12] Paige Meltzer, “‘The Pulse and Conscience of America’: The General Federation and Women’s Citizenship, 1945-1960,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies 30, no. 3 (2009): 52-76.

Image versus Reality: Women in the Camp Adair Sentry

Students in Dr. Marisa Chappell’s fall 2023 History 363 “Women in U.S. History” class spent the final three weeks of Fall Quarter 2023 in OSU’s Special Collections and Archives Research Center exploring women in Camp Adair’s history.

By Anish Alam, Annabel McMillan, and Gwyn Scalet

As we explored the Camp Adair Sentry, the official newspaper of Camp Adair during its years as a World War II training cantonment, we were struck by its superficial portrayal of women. We knew from our course readings and discussions that women played significant roles during World War II, so we set out to explore this seeming contradiction by analyzing the differences between the portrayal of women in the Sentry and the actual roles women played at Camp Adair. Our findings suggest that at Camp Adair, as in the rest of the United States, the war offered various opportunities for women and that, at the same time, there were distinct attempts to contain the transformative possibilities of women’s expansive contributions to the war effort.

“Elect Your PX Dream Girl! – The Rules,” Camp Adair Sentry, February 11, 1943, describes a competition in which male soldiers voted for their favorite among the women who staffed the camp’s post exchanges.

An article on the front page of the Camp Adair Sentry on February 11, 1942 announced a contest to “Elect Your PX Dream Girl!” The article discusses a contest being run on the base in which men at Camp Adair voted to choose the “best” female worker in the camp’s retail outlets, called Post Exchanges. The contest highlights the sexualization and objectification of women at the camp and in American society. The article describes competitors solely in terms of their appearances and framing their beauty in terms of male fantasy: “Wherever she is, she rings her bell. She’s the reason you stand in a surging line for an hour.” The article does not discuss the actual labor women performed as retail workers at all. It notes that the top four contestants would be “photographed – with sweaters (although bathing suits would be alright too),” further illustrating the women’s position as objects.[1]

“Social Swirl” from the Camp Adair Sentry, March 11, 1943, details social events happening on and around the camp.

This article was not unique. A review of issues of the newspaper revealed that women were generally dismissed or objectified. The Sentry repeatedly focused on women’s social role and the perception of women by male service members. When women’s labor is discussed, it is confined to their role as entertainment. The article “Social Swirl” from March 11, 1942, for example, documents women’s role overseeing social events for the enjoyment of servicemen.[2] Women-organized dances at Camp Adair and in nearby communities provided recreation and entertainment for men.

From the “Help Wanted – Female” section of the Oregon Statesman, November 23, 1943, this advertisement recruited “girls” as retail workers at Camp Adair. The advertisement just below, in contrast, seeks “women” to work as a cook in a boarding house.

Despite the newspaper’s emphasis on appearance, other sources illustrate that women’s labor, both paid employment and volunteer labor, was essential to Camp Adair’s functioning. A November 23, 1943 advertisement in the Oregon Statesmen for “girls to clerk in Camp Adair exchange stores,” for example, promised a “good salary” for a six-day work week. The use of the world “girls” indicates that the employers were looking specifically for young women.[3] Retail jobs thus offered new opportunities for local women to earn wages. Another Oregon Statesman article discussed local women volunteering to create recreational spaces for service members at Camp Adair. Women had long performed this kind of volunteer labor, and its coverage in the newspaper suggested that it was recognized as valuable; at the same time, the article noted that the work was done “without additional help,” suggesting that readers might assume women were not fully competent.[4]

This excerpt from “Monmouth Women Furnish Second Recreation Room” in the Oregon Statesman on March 9, 1943, describes women’s volunteer work furnishing recreation spaces for servicemen at Camp Adair.

Women also served as clerks and nurses at Camp Adair. An article in the Oregon State Barometer on April 21, 1943 reports that Miss Virginia Landquist, who was “director of the division of biochemistry at the Camp Adair field hospital,” and Miss Winifred de Witt, member of the camp’s nurse corp, would visit Oregon State College to talk to students about “the opportunities open to women with home economics background and who wish to  make their efforts count for victory.” Many of those opportunities, as the speakers suggest, were highly skilled, salaried positions. Of course, salaried and professional roles and social and recreational ones were not mutually exclusive. The article notes that “Miss Lundquist supplements her work at the camp with duties as director of dancing instruction at the Corvallis USO [United Service Organization].” [5]

It is not surprising to find women workers and volunteers at Camp Adair. Historians have documented the varied positions women played during World War II. According to historians Judy Barrett Litoff and David C. Smith, some 6.5 million women in the United States were employed, bringing the proportion of American women in the labor force from 25% before the war to 36% by its end. Historians argue that the labor women performed during the war affected their identities. Litoff argues that “one of the most significant themes expressed” in women’s wartime letters “is the new sense of self experience,” demonstrating that these roles held significant meaning and opened a new sense of purpose in women’s lives.[6] The historian Karen Anderson, too, argued that the fact that a majority of women “wanted to keep their jobs after the war signified that women’s aspirations for themselves and their sense of their own competence had been dramatically altered” by their war work.[7] When set against scholarship about expanding roles for women and research in other local newspapers, it is clear that The Sentry underrepresented the labor of women on camp.

[1] “Elect Your PX Dream Girl – The Rules,” Camp Adair Sentry, February 11, 1943, 1.

[2] “Social Swirl,” Camp Adair Sentry, March 11, 1943, 8.

[3] “Help Wanted – Female,” The Oregon Statesman, November 23, 1943, 11.

[4] “Monmouth Women Furnish Second Recreation Room,” The Oregon Statesman, March 9, 1943, 5.

[5] “Home Economics Club Sponsors Convo Today,” Oregon State Barometer, April 21, 1942, 3.

[6] Judy Barrett Litoff and David C. Smith, “U.S. women on the Home Front in World War II,” The Historian 57, no. 2 (1995), 354. For discussion of women’s home front work in Oregon specifically, see Amy E. Platt, “‘Go into the yard as a worker, not as a woman’” Oregon Women During World War II, a Digital Exhibit on the Oregon History Project,” Oregon Historical Quarterly 116, no. 2 (2015): 234-248

[7] Karen Andersen, “Teaching about Rosie the Riveter: The Role of Women during World War II,” OAH Magazine of History 3, no. ¾ (1988), 35.

Finding Women at Camp Adair: HST 363 student research projects

Marisa Chappell, Associate Professor of History

The twenty-four students in History 363: Women in U.S. History spent the final three weeks of Fall Quarter 2023 in OSU’s Special Collections and Archives Research Center exploring women in Camp Adair’s history. Archivist Tiah Edmonson-Morton made archival collections, oral histories, and other primary sources available for students to examine. She also shared her infinite enthusiasm, patience, and knowledge with the students, both in class presentations and frequent individual consultations. Students worked in groups of three to explore the sources, identify a historical question/focus, and find and read scholarship to help them contextualize what they were discovering. In the end, they produced new knowledge about the history of women at Camp Adair and Oregon State College.

Three groups were especially intrigued by portrayals of women in the Camp Adair Sentry, the camp’s official newspaper. A February 1943 front-page article about a PX Girl contest served as a starting point for all three groups, who were struck that a military training camp during wartime was holding what seemed like a beauty and popularity contest. The article led students groups in distinct directions. Two groups decided to further explore images of women in the Sentry. Bakhshoudeh, Hawes, and Kirschenbaum followed the PX Girl story and used it to discuss “Women’s Objectification in the Camp Adair Sentry.” Merims-Johnson, Lerner, and Johnson focused on the newspaper’s photographs more generally, using them to think about how media producers during the war grappled with the new opportunities available to women, in their post, “Mixed in Classification: The Paradox of Gender Roles in Media and the Mobilization of Women at Camp Adair.” Finally, Alam, McMillan, and Scalet wanted to learn more about “PX girls” and other kinds of women’s labor at Camp Adair, resulting in their post, “Image versus Reality: Women in the Camp Adair Sentry.”

In a related post, Collins, Cunningham, and Lake discuss the prominence of women as entertainers for servicemembers both at Camp Adair and at Oregon State College. In “Dances, Bands, and Pageants: Women and Entertainment at Camp Adair,” they argue that whether as nurturers reminding of the comforts of home or as objects of femininity, beauty, and sexuality, they found, women were enlisted during the war to maintain soldiers’ morale. Meanwhile, an exploration of the Oregon State Barometer led another group to focus on campaigns to promote women’s physical fitness at OSC during the war. While not directly about Camp Adair, the post “Promoting Physical Heath for Women at Oregon State College during World War II” by Blair, Matteo, and Zhang highlights yet another way that the war affected both ideas about and the experiences of women. The group found significant urgency around women’s physical conditioning, both as a way to fulfill wartime labor demands and as a general duty.

Moving forward in time, two groups were drawn to explore women’s roles at the first Adair Village, which the area was dubbed when it housed married OSC students in the late 1940s and early 1950s. They started with Dan Poling’s 1956 dissertation about that first Adair Village, which mentioned a Mothers Club. Students noted Poling’s reference to a newsletter, The Community Spirit, which archivist Tiah Edmunson-Morton uncovered in SCARC’s collections. McCarville, Buresh, and Howell, in their post “The First Adair Village: Women at OSC’s Postwar Married Student Housing,” noted its homemade quality, which was starkly different from the more professional, military-produced Camp Adair Sentry. Students in both groups documented the activities of the Mothers Club as evidenced in The Community Spirit and a 1949 Adair Village Directory. Bransetter, Kreitzer, and Miller looked for evidence of the club and its officers in OSC yearbooks and the Barometer and they were surprised to find little. They conclude therefore that most members were wives of male students rather than students themselves. They also suggest in their post “Adair Village Mothers Club: Invisible Community Builders in the Postwar Era,” that women’s community-building activities, while crucial to the well-being of Adair Village families, did not seem to qualify as news on campus. Both groups’ findings raised questions about the longer history of women’s community building labor. Under what circumstances have government and public institutions committed to providing social supports for families and for which families, for example, and how has community building changed as women’s roles have changed?

At the end of class, we discussed how students’ findings related to the broader content of the course, which emphasized how women’s lives and ideas about gender have always shaped and been shaped by been shaped by race and ethnicity, sexuality, class, and other axes of difference. There is still much to discover about the mostly white, economically secure, and able-bodied women whose lives intersected with Camp Adair. At the same time, it will take a different set of methods and sources to find women who do not fit those categories. I look forward to engaging new groups of students in this work.

New ways to watch old games! Game Footage, 1953

We’ve released a new set of digitized historical basketball content just in time for the 2023/2024 season!

New posts will be released each Friday in November.
This is post 4 of 4.

Seattle University basketball highlights, March 1953. (0:04:40). Led by All American guard Johnny O’Brien, Seattle is shown defeating Idaho State University and earning the right to play against the University of Washington in the NCAA tournament West Regional, which was held at Gill Coliseum. The film includes footage of Seattle players exiting a charter flight, perhaps at the Corvallis airport; fans assembling outside of Gill Coliseum; Oregon State College athletic director Roy “Spec” Keene; basketball journalists seated court side; and game action versus Washington.

Chris Petersen, Sr. Faculty Research Assistant and Beaver sports fan, selected and summarized these clips. Brian Davis, our Digital Production Unit Supervisor, digitized and process the nineteen Umatic tapes now available in our MediaSpace channel. Thanks to them!

New ways to watch old games! Season Montages, 1981-1986

We’ve released a new set of digitized historical basketball content just in time for the 2023/2024 season!

New posts will be released each Friday in November.
This is post 3 of 4.

OSU Men’s Basketball montage, 1981-1982. (1:56:37). The 1981-82 Oregon State University men’s basketball team won the Pac-10 Conference championship for the third year in a row, completing the season with a record of 25-5, with only two losses in conference. The Beavers competed in the NCAA tournament that year, losing in the third round to Georgetown, the tournament’s eventual runner-up. For the year, OSU was led by senior guard Lester Conner (14.9 points, 5.1 assists), sophomore forward Charlie Sitton (12.9 points, 4.3 rebounds), junior forward Danny Evans (11.3 point), and junior guard William Brew (9.2 point, 3.4 assist). This film includes isolated game audio of Beavers head coach Ralph Miller from timestamps 1:22:30 to 1:38:30.

OSU Men’s Basketball montage, 1982-1983. (1:49:54). The Oregon State University men’s basketball team finished the 1982-83 season with a record of 20-11, losing to Fresno State in the third round of the NIT Tournament to complete the year. The squad was led by junior forward Charlie Sitton (18.8 points, 5.2 rebounds), sophomore forward A.C. Green (14 points, 7.6 rebounds), senior forward Danny Evans (10.7 points) and freshman center Steve Woodside (8.9 points, 3.8 rebounds). In addition to game footage, this film also includes scenes from Beaver practices and locker room preparation.

OSU Men’s Basketball montage, 1985-1986. (5:14:56). In 1984-85, the Oregon State University men’s basketball team struggled through a down year, finishing the season with a record of 12-15 — the program’s first losing season since the 1970-71 campaign. The team was led by junior center Jose Ortiz (16.4 points, 8.6 rebounds), senior guard Derrin Houston (12.3 points), senior center Steve Woodside (9.9 points, 6.3 rebounds), and senior guard Darryl Flowers (9.1 points, 4.2 assists). In addition to footage from numerous games, this lengthy film includes scenes from the locker room as well as media availabilities with players and coaches.

Chris Petersen, Sr. Faculty Research Assistant and Beaver sports fan, selected and summarized these clips. Brian Davis, our Digital Production Unit Supervisor, digitized and process the nineteen Umatic tapes now available in our MediaSpace channel. Thanks to them!

New ways to watch old games! Gary Payton, 1988-1990.

We’ve released a new set of digitized historical basketball content just in time for the 2023/2024 season!

New posts will be released each Friday in November.
This is post 2 of 4.

Among the most decorated basketball players in Oregon State University history, Payton was the Pac-10 Freshman of the year in 1987, a three-time All Pac-10 selection and, in 1990, both Pac-10 Player of the Year as well as consensus All-American. By the time his four-year career at OSU concluded, he held the school record for points, field goals, three-point field goals, assists, and steals. During the Payton era, the Beavers made three NCAA Tournament appearances and one NIT. His number “20” jersey was retired during the 1996-97 season.

Gary Payton highlight footage, 1989-1990 (0:04:01). Silent footage of Oregon State University senior guard Gary Payton in action at Gill Coliseum and at the Far West Classic, held in Portland, Oregon at the Memorial Coliseum. Payton averaged 25.7 points per page, 8.1 assists per game and 4.7 rebounds per game in leading the Beavers to the Pac-10 co-championship and an overall record of 22-7.

Gary Payton – Pac-10 Player of the Week highlights, March 2, 1988 (0:00:34). Silent footage of Gary Payton, who was named Pac-10 Player of the Week on March 2, 1988. Payton is shown competing on the road versus Stanford, who were defeated by the Beavers 63-61. Payton scored 17 points in the victory.

Gary Payton – Pac-10 Player of the Week highlights, February 16, 1989 (0:00:44). Silent footage of Payton, who was named Pac-10 Player of the Week on February 16, 1989. Payton is shown competing at Gill Coliseum versus Arizona State, whom the Beavers defeated by a score of 73-59. Payton scored 22 points to lead the effort.

Chris Petersen, Sr. Faculty Research Assistant and Beaver sports fan, selected and summarized these clips. Brian Davis, our Digital Production Unit Supervisor, digitized and process the nineteen Umatic tapes now available in our MediaSpace channel. Thanks to them!