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During fall term 2023 Dr. Kara Ritzheimer’s History 310 (Historian’s Craft) students researched and wrote blog posts about OSU during WWII. The sources they consulted are listed at the end of each post. Students wrote on a variety of topics and we hope you appreciate their contributions as much as the staff at SCARC does!

Blog post written by Dahlia Moses.

Illustration of a seated woman putting on skates, from the oregon state barometer, corvallis.

Figure 1
An Illustration from the Barometer’s “Feminine Fancy” page, September 29, 1944.

In understanding the history of Oregon State College during WWII through the lens of archival media, it’s important to look behind the scenes of the media itself. During WWII, Oregon State College (alongside the rest of the nation) relied on a flow of information to keep students informed and aware. The war raging overseas drafted much of the male student population to fight, slashing male attendance numbers and leaving roles behind throughout the school that the women of Oregon State filled, notably in publications.[i] Patriotism at OSC and nationwide placed extra importance on accurate and fast reporting on the war overseas as well as attention for the home front effort in Corvallis. However, when women took over these roles the result was more complex than just a simple replacement. These women carried the important responsibility of relaying information about both the war and other key topics to the student body while maintaining the same strong journalistic standards OSC publications had come to be known for, forming new pathways for women in media.

I started my research on this era with the intent of writing about the wartime production of the Oregon State Barometer, Oregon State College’s long-running newspaper. When skimming through the editors and journalists listed as staff for each issue, I noticed an increase in women’s names. I investigated other publications like the Beaver, OSC’s annual yearbook, and other promotional media and found more evidence of this increase in female staff, as well as evidence that female staffers increasingly held higher level positions.[ii] I decided to make women’s wartime involvement in these publications the focus of my research.

Woman using a telephone while looking at a document.

The first document I examined for signs of staff changes was the 1944 edition of the Beaver, OSC’s annual yearbook. The Beaver was created by students and for a student audience and intended to highlight academic life and extracurriculars. It was typed, printed, and bound, containing quips and photos similar to modern yearbooks. Each edition features details about the college’s publications staff of journalists, editors, and managers who worked on the college’s various publications, including those who worked on the Oregon State Barometer, the Lamplighter (the student literary magazine), and the Beaver itself. The 1944 yearbook mentions a reduction in Barometer production; the paper dropped from five to two copies a week due to lack of resources, primarily paper, printers, and staff.[iii] 

However, this upset didn’t stop the paper from flourishing. A year later, in the 1945 yearbook, the publications section is presented similarly but with one small difference. Between all featured publications, the staff is primarily women. This change corresponds with its publication at the end of the war when male students were especially scarce and women had had time to acclimate to new roles.[iv]

This is especially stark compared to the 1942 edition of the Beaver, which had a considerably higher percentage of male staff occupying  high level positions.[v] In former journalism professor Charles J. McIntosh’s unpublished manuscript titled “Story of the Oregon State College Barometer,” he writes that in 1945, women had proven their capabilities in this field, holding the average staff ratio of “four Co-eds to one Joe College.”[vi]

Despite this shift, the Barometer’s content and organizational structure remained relatively unchanged throughout the war. Typed and printed in standard newspaper size and format, the Baro detailed news both local and overseas for students at home. It is often referenced in other local papers, demonstrating its relevance in the community, and had close ties with the Gazette Times, Corvallis’ daily paper. In fact, the Gazette Times printed the Barometer, and staff often spent time there.[vii]

Like The Beaver, students produced the paper for other students, staffed by a team of journalists, editors, and managers. Anyone could be a journalist; all that was required was taking a rudimentary journalism course, and students in the class turned out hundreds of articles for the paper every year.[viii] An article from 1944 states that journalism for the Baro was not limited to liberal arts students and invited students across the campus to become contributors. The anonymous author wrote “[the newspaper] is every student’s responsibility. We need student expression.” Each edition featured columns, local advertisements, radio schedules, information for social events, and more. It would have been a valuable source of information for the average student. The paper also often featured sections aimed exclusively at women and written by female staff. 

These ranged in theme and included titles like “As We See It” and “Feminine Fancy” which usually spanned a full page. However, the newspaper’s focus stayed primarily on the war effort, with most non-social/sport related information focused on overseas news or the at-home war effort.[ix] This was a conscious choice by the editors and reflects the national and local sense of patriotism at the time.

The 1942 edition of The Beaver explains that “although journalism is not a major school at Oregon State, publications has become the largest all-student activity.”[x] Oregon State has never been a school aimed at journalism in particular, but it was still a draw for many in this era, especially with the increase in staff opportunities in several on-campus publications. As outlined in a 1945 issue of the Barometer (and referenced in many other publications), many young female journalists had the opportunity to join Theta Sigma Phi, the national honor society for women in journalism. The society annually published a special issue of the Barometer aimed at Co-Eds and boasted a selection of women employed throughout the school.[xi] Two of these women were Pat Glenn Hagood, who became the Barometer’s first female editor in chief in 1944, and her immediate successor, Betty Lu Nixon. Both women were extremely active in OSC publishing. In a modern Barometer article chronicling the newspaper’s 125th anniversary, the author discusses the environment for women during WWII, writing that according to former Barometer advisor Frank Ragulsky, until 1944, women’s opportunities to be part of the newspaper were cut short by a 9:30 curfew (and the paper wasn’t usually finished until after).[xii] I was able to find a few examples of curfews and restrictions placed on co-eds and freshmen women, with campus or town visits off limits on many weekday nights.

When the number of men working on the paper and on campus in general decreased, university administrators began to lift these curfews, which made it possible for a woman to hold the Barometer’s editor-in-chief position. Increases in personal freedom allowed for women to also have greater freedom in the workplace. I found a video interview conducted in 2017 with Betty Lu who describes in detail her experiences working for the paper during the war. She explains that “there were a whole bunch of women who worked on the Barometer” and that her duties as editor usually involved making assignments for and helping other people with their work.[xiii] The Barometer published an article in 1945 stating that she, like the other editors, didn’t want to make any changes to the paper and its content, choosing to keep the focus on reporting campus news. After graduation, both Betty Lu and Pat Hagood went on to continue careers in publishing and journalism at local newspapers and agencies.[xiv]

Another example of post-graduate careers in media is found in another OSC publication, the Oregon State Yank. The Yank, a small publication intended to relay news from OSC to students serving in the military, was created in 1943 and produced by two women, Jane Steagall and Elaine Sewell. They both graduated from OSC in 1941 (both were also members of Theta Sigma Phi) and both found jobs in publishing/advertising after graduation. They produced The Yank in their free time, and watched it grow in popularity and production quality until the end of the war. A 1945 article in the Barometer thanked them for their efforts and described the publication as a real success.[xv]

This growth was also present in other colleges across the nation, as described in an article by Charles Dorn on women’s wartime roles at UC Berkeley. Although he discusses a different setting, he argues that women’s advances in university life were not just due to a simple lack of male students. He states that women “challenged both tradition and social norms to further their curricular and extracurricular goals.”[xvi] However, he also writes that in the case of Berkeley, male students often perceived their female counterparts as “filling in,” rather than as acting with their own sense of agency, despite the fact that they proved themselves to be more than capable.[xvii] I found some evidence of this in earlier editions of The Beaver, where women on staff are sometimes discussed more as “temps” or described based on their appearance, but by 1945 and 1946 the staff are discussed with the same tone as their male counterparts years before.[xviii]

While the staff changes may not have lasted at OSU over time, the stories of former editors like Betty Lu show the tangible benefits these opportunities provided for women in their future professional lives. With men largely gone from campus during the war, women were able to fill in and excel in OSC publications, keeping things running smoothly and producing the same quality readers had come to expect during the war while also gaining valuable experience in their own lives. Instead of a passive role, women instead took advantage of these new opportunities and were able to challenge traditional systems, further their personal and educational goals, and prepare for and advance in the post-college workforce.

Bibliography

“Journalism in Bloom,” The Daily Barometer, LHI q07, Vol 52, Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.

Dorn, Charles. “‘A Woman’s World’: The University of California, Berkeley, during the Second World War.” History of Education Quarterly 48, no. 4 (2008): 534–64. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20462258.

Historical Publications of Oregon State University, Oregon State University. “It’s Your Tomorrow At Oregon State, 1945” Oregon Digital. Accessed 2023-12-13. https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/fx71cs277

Kalama, Jaycee. “Letter from the Editor: We Cannot Celebrate 125 Years of the Baro without Addressing Its Oppressive Past.” The Daily Barometer, March 1, 2021. https://dailybaro.orangemedianetwork.com/982/opinion/letter-from-the-editor-we-cannot-celebrate-125-years-of-the-baro-without-addressing-its-oppressive-past/.

McIntosh, Charles J. “Story of the Oregon State College Barometer.” Unpublished manuscript, circa 1947-48, typescript. Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.

OSU Special Collections & Archives Research Center, Oregon State University. “Oregon State Barometer, January 30, 1945” Oregon Digital. Accessed 2023-12-06. https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/8k71nk908

OSU Special Collections & Archives Research Center, Oregon State University. “Oregon State Barometer, February 16, 1945” Oregon Digital. Accessed 2023-12-06. https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/8k71nk95n

OSU Special Collections & Archives Research Center, Oregon State University. “Oregon State Barometer, May 1, 1945” Oregon Digital. Accessed 2023-12-11. https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/8k71nm10j

OSU Special Collections & Archives Research Center, Oregon State University. “Oregon State Barometer, May 11, 1945 (Co-Ed Issue)” Oregon Digital. Accessed 2023-12-06. https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/8k71nm13c

Oregon State University Yearbooks, Oregon State University. “The Beaver 1942” Oregon Digital. Accessed 2023-11-28. https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/f7623d013

Oregon State University Yearbooks, Oregon State University. “The Beaver 1944” Oregon Digital. Accessed 2023-12-01. https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/zk51vh18n

Oregon State University Yearbooks, Oregon State University. “The Beaver 1945” Oregon Digital. Accessed 2023-12-01. https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/12579s71x

“Running The Barometer during World War II,” Interview with Betty Lu Anderson by Mike Dicianna. The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project (June 1, 2017), http://scarc.library.oregonstate.edu/oh150/anderson/video-anderson.html


[i] Betty Lu Anderson, “Running the Barometer during World War II,” interview by Mike Dicianna, OSU Sesquicentennial Oral History Project, June 1, 2017, audio, http://scarc.library.oregonstate.edu/oh150/anderson/video-anderson.html.

[ii] “The Beaver 1943” (Oregon State University, 1943), 192-195, Oregon Digital, https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/fx719t41x.

[iii] “The Beaver 1944,” (Oregon State University, 1944), 148, Oregon Digital, https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/zk51vh18n.

[iv] “The Beaver 1945,” (Oregon State University, 1945), 166-174, Oregon Digital, https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/12579s71x.

[v]  “The Beaver 1942,” (Oregon State University, 1942), 126-129, Oregon Digital, https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/f7623d013.

[vi] Charles J McIntosh, “Story of the Oregon State College Barometer,” unpublished manuscript, circa 1947-48, typescript, 810, Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center.

[vii] Interview with Betty Lu Anderson

[viii] “It’s Your Tomorrow at Oregon State, 1945” (Oregon State University, 1945), Oregon Digital, 12, https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/fx71cs27.

[ix] “Journalism Fraternity’s Eleven Girls Announced,” Oregon State Barometer Co-Ed Issue, May 11, 1945, 2, Oregon Digital, https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/8k71nm13c

[x] “The Beaver 1942,” 126-129.

[xi] “Journalism Fraternity’s Eleven Girls Announced.”

[xii]  Jaycee Kalama, “Letter from the Editor: We cannot celebrate 125 years of The Baro without addressing its oppressive past,” Oregon State Barometer, March 1, 2021, https://dailybaro.orangemedianetwork.com/982/opinion/letter-from-the-editor-we-cannot-celebrate-125-years-of-the-baro-without-addressing-its-oppressive-past/

[xiii]  Interview with Betty Lu Anderson.

[xiv]  Interview with Betty Lu Anderson.

[xv] “Co-Editors of Oregon State Yank Feel Repaid by Thanks of Staters,” Oregon State Barometer, February 16, 1945, 3, https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/8k71nk95n.

[xvi] Charles Dorn, “‘A Woman’s World’: The University of California, Berkeley, during the Second World War,” History of Education Quarterly 48, No. 4 (Nov., 2008): 536.

[xvii] Charles Dorn, “‘A Woman’s World’” 535-536.

[xviii] “The Beaver 1942”, 129; “The Beaver 1945”, 170.