This is part two of a two-part post in which graduate students examined how Mundelein College students wrote about World War II in The Skyscraper student newspaper. This post spans the years 1942-1946, covering immediately after the U.S. enters the war and continuing a year after Japan’s unconditional surrender in September 1945, as the world works to rebuild and recover. Read Part One here.
Following the United States’ entry into World War II, Mundelein student’s coverage of events in the student newspaper, The Skyscraper, strongly centered around college women’s civic duties to aid the war effort. For young Catholic women attending school, these daily activities were bolstered along by spiritual practices of prayers as well as being driven through more physically tangible support. Their focus was to educate themselves to be independent, responsible thinkers who were civically active. With the uptick of the war, focus was also placed on personal sacrifice by way of responsible consumption and rationing. Fewer Cokes and candies purchased each week meant a few more dimes sent to the war effort.
Mundelein students were active in partnering with the Red Cross, whose standard courses certified over 200 faculty and students in first aid. Numerous drives were held from 1941 through the war’s end to generate funds and materials for the war effort. Mundelein students sold war bonds, invested in War Stamps and gathered scrap metal. Many of these drives were for a specific goal of supplying the US Army with Jeeps. By the end of May 1943, students at Mundelein reported raising a total of $17,232.15, which including inflation as of July 2022, equals around $295,149. By December 1945, the Skyscraper reported their total drive efforts to be “well over $100,000” since 1942. With inflation, that total reaches nearly $1.82 million. Both inflation calculations are from US Inflation Calculator based off the latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) from the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor in July 2022.
While money raised by the college students was spent on items outside of campus, they also focused on tangible aspects of their immediate surroundings including planting and cultivating a Victory garden on campus, as well as some students taking a course for “Flying Observers’ Corps” through Mundelein.
The young women at Mundelein regularly visited the posts of military men in the area and staged “Bake-a-Cake-for-a-Solider-Day” and shipped cakes to servicemen in 35 camps across the country. The college received a letter from President Franklin Roosevelt’s secretary, on his behalf, thanking them for their efforts.
During the later stages of the war, and after, women recruits in the military were given more coverage in the Skyscraper, especially after the GI Bill was passed, which meant women who had served in units like WACS and WAVE could receive funding to attend Mundelein. Once the war ended, focus was turned to reinforcing the importance of—especially Catholic—women’s role in rebuilding America. Language in 1945 and 1946 publications stressed women’s role as homemakers, future mothers, and their duty in helping “reconstruct society.”
Throughout the war, the Skyscraper looked forward to what a peaceful world might look like after the war’s end and wrestled with what their responsibility as a Catholic women’s college was in helping guide that vision. With the creation of the United Nations, its Charter, and UNESCO, Mundelein took their responsibility in contributing seriously and hosted the “United Nations Institute.” Speakers came for numerous sessions over a multi-day conference to help decide what their influence might be—especially through the Catholic community—how the Charter could impact them, their family, the USA and global citizenship. The college additionally introduced a new history course “convinced that the success of the United Nations organization depends largely on the support of an enlightened public, instructed” in the organization’s objectives. These efforts aimed at creating opportunities for students’ critical engagement in helping shape the world around them according to their guiding principles and independent thought.
Across the span of the war, the question repeated across Skyscraper pages boiled down to: “Now what?” What was their responsibility, as students, citizens of the U.S., as women, as Catholics? Mundelein women showed dedication to their country and world at war informed by civic duty and propelled by their faith.
Read part one of the two-part series: Mundelein Responds to World War II: 1937-1941
Kenleigh is a recent graduate of Loyola University’s Masters in Public History. Before coming to Loyola, she worked as lead interpreter at a historic site in Nashville, TN, and her undergraduate background is in English—Creative Writing, and History. Her current research interests include the intersection of public memory and physical place, oral histories, and American Indian studies. She enjoys exploring her local farmers’ market and petting any dog she’s allowed.
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