Hidden Heroes of WWII: an honor roll for DeKalb County women (Part I)

“Women who stepped up were measured as citizens of the nation, not as women… This was a people’s war and everyone was in it.” – Oveta Culp Hobby (as quoted on the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.)

 

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Women played an essential part of the war effort, both in the military and on the home front. This recruiting poster encouraged women to join the military for their own sake, and for their country’s sake. (Image source: UNC Greensboro Women Veterans Project)

World War II was the first time in American history that women were allowed to enlist in the military. Even today, these groundbreaking women remain on the sidelines of WWII history and many of their stories have been forgotten. Few of these women faced enemy fire or had the opportunity to serve overseas, but they were heroic nevertheless. When it was not expected of them, they left their homes and their families to serve their country. They served as essential behind-the-scenes members of the military, serving as officers, recruiters, clerks, storekeepers, control tower operators, nurses, pharmacists, and more. Women could enlist in special reserve units of the military starting in 1942, including the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC, dropping the “Auxiliary” in 1943 to become WAC), United States Naval Reserve WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, Coast Guard SPARS, and Air Force WASPS (Women Airforce Service Pilots). The Army Nurse Corps (ANC) was established in 1901 and the Navy Nurse Corps in 1908, but these women were not considered part of the Army or Navy until later, when they were given retroactive veteran status. The approximately 350,000 women nationwide who enlisted in these reserves “released a man to fight” overseas. Whether they enlisted out of patriotic duty, sense of adventure, or another reason, they became an essential part of the military. Continue reading “Hidden Heroes of WWII: an honor roll for DeKalb County women (Part I)”

In the Navy: a WWII story

I recently had the opportunity to record the story of my grandmother in WWII for a storytelling class. It tells the story of how my Nana, Mildred Kaiser, joined the WAVES and served in the Navy during WWII. It follows the timeline of that part of her life. Click here or click the video below to view the digital story!

Thank you to Prof. Kate McDowell and my UIUC Storytelling classmates who inspired me to share this story in a new way! I had previously written about her time in the WAVES in a three-part series.


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The History of Pleasant Hill School

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The small schoolhouse shown on the Ira Douglas / Pleasant Hill property in 1871. (Image Source: 1871 Plat Map, DeKalb Co., IL, HistoricMapWorks.com)

On Pleasant Hill Road, in Mayfield Township, DeKalb County, Illinois, there once was a small white schoolhouse, with a small farm cemetery next to it. It was diagonally across the road from Pleasant Hill Farm, first owned by Ira Douglass, and later owned by Gustaf Medine, and then by Charles W. Drake.

The little “crude log” one-room schoolhouse was built on land owned by Ira Douglass in the early 1840’s. Its first teachers in the 1840’s were Lucy Stuart, Fanny Clark and Harriet Russell.  The earliest religious services in Mayfield were also conducted in the schoolhouse. Coincidentally, Ira Douglass was also a leader in the Methodist Episcopal Church of Mayfield. It is unknown what happened to the original schoolhouse, and how long classes were conducted there. Services for the Mayfield church were held there through at least the 1860’s, and the old schoolhouse appears on an 1871 map. In 1870, the county superintendent of the schools deemed the schoolhouse to be “too small, and is so near the road that a person sitting in his carriage can almost take hold of the door handle. There is no black-board worthy of the name.” Twenty-five students attended Pleasant Hill School that year.  Continue reading “The History of Pleasant Hill School”

Today in the Family Tree: 18 March 1945

This photo was taken 73 years ago today. It shows Junior (George) Florenz Weil Continue reading “Today in the Family Tree: 18 March 1945”

Favorite photo: Nana and Papa at the fair

One of my favorite photos from my family history is actually a set of photos. My grandparents, Ed Drake and Millie Kaiser, were out on the town and visited a photo booth. This set of tiny photos are the photos that were taken there! When I asked my grandmother about them, she said they must have been taken when a fair came to town. They both look so happy, and you can see some of the mischief in my grandfather’s face. He could always make us laugh. I remember both of them that way. I love these photos because although I knew them later in life, I can see that they had the same spirit when they were younger, too.

Continue reading “Favorite photo: Nana and Papa at the fair”