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.