Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Victory Belles, Broads in the Service, and Beauties with Brains: Young Women at Southwestern Louisiana Institute during World War II (1941-1945)
by Barrett, Anna, M.A., University of Louisiana at Lafayette, 2014, 124; 1557538
Abstract (Summary)

The study of women at Southwestern Louisiana Institute — now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette — during World War II on the American home front serves to show how young women responded to wartime necessities while at the same time reacting to the evolving and often contradictory meaning of womanhood and the sexual division of roles on the home front. On Southwestern's campus women's visible presence and expanded education included the areas of war work, athletics, and leadership within academic circles on campus. Women on campus used their war efforts to claim expanded opportunities on campus that allowed them to be not only “Victory Belles“ who sold war bonds by looking pretty — in keeping with more traditional feminine roles — but also to participate in athletic competition and military training, gaining access to more institutional resources. As Victory Belles, female students at Southwestern initially responded to the war by making defense work part of their traditional female social spaces but worked toward fostering an environment conducive to recruitment, as women began to consider joining the war effort off campus. In order to prepare themselves physically for the war effort, women at Southwestern also approached athletics with wartime goals in mind. Women on university grounds, although pursuing expanded educational opportunities, did not reject domesticity. Women at Southwestern rather sought to broaden their academic circles and educational goals by becoming leaders and challenging initial stereotypes of women that existed before the war that categorized women's worth as primarily domestic. These young women, as campus officials concentrated on adjusting to a war–centered environment, used the war to go beyond the established curriculum to widen their sphere of influence at Southwestern during the mid–1940s. The expanded opportunities women pursued helped Southwestern in the postwar environment embrace co-education within numerous social spaces at the university.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Farmer-Kaiser, Mary
Commitee: Ritchey, Sara, Sheppard, Peter, Troutman, John
School: University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Department: History
School Location: United States -- Louisiana
Source: MAI 53/01M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: American history, Womens studies
Publication Number: 1557538
ISBN: 978-1-303-95066-7
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