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.

 

ous 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.