Authors: Anish Alam, Annabel McMillan, Gwin Scalet

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.

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.

ployed, 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.