What we know today as the University of Mary Washington began in 1908 as the Fredericksburg State Normal School, part of the state-wide normal school system for educating women. The school was still in its infancy when the Great War began in 1914, and had only three buildings on its campus. The Great War affected many aspects of life at FSNS, although it did not affect enrollment numbers. Members of the faculty and student body dedicated themselves to supporting the war effort in any way that they could.
Several faculty members left the school to join the war effort—one was Gunyon Harrison, who left the women of the FSNS Rifle Club to train Allied riflemen before they shipped to Europe. Many faculty members also asked for salary increases because of the war’s resulting rising prices, showing that even small-town Fredericksburg was affected by the conflict thousands of miles away. Read More >>
After the United States entered the war in 1917, course offerings reflected a local and national war-time mentality. The school hoped to inspire a sense of patriotism in its faculty, staff, and students by highlighting the heroes and heroines of Fredericksburg’s local history. Literature courses also shifted to include American ideals of freedom and love of country. As a practical measure, FSNS offered a special course in food conservation, relevant to a rationing nation. Read More >>
The students responded to the war in their own ways. Student clubs made clothing to send to war-torn Europe. Several student groups and faculty members even adopted war orphans from Europe. After US entry into the war, the women tirelessly dedicated themselves to supporting the war effort, fundraising for many campaigns and organizations, helping local farmers, and creating patriotic posters. Read More >>
1918 brought the effects of not only the war but also the Spanish Influenza to the school. Both students and faculty experienced symptoms, and at at the flu’s height the school closed for eight full days because of the outbreak. Many students left or failed to return because of the influenza, and one faculty member, Virginia Goolrick, fell victim and passed away shortly after contracting the flu. Both Fredericksburg and FSNS experienced the harsh effects wrought by the influenza but remained vigilant in supporting the war effort, continuing their support until their beloved soldiers returned home. Read More >>
1. “The Faculty,” Battlefield Yearbook, 1917, 8, Special Collections and University Archives, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington, https://archive.org/stream/battlefield191700univ#page/8/mode/2up (accessed March 29, 2014).
2. “Corner in Temporary Library,” Bulletin of the State Normal School, Fredericksburg, VA: Fourth Annual Catalogue, June 1915, additional matter between pages 16 and 17, Special Collections and University Archives, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington, https://archive.org/stream/bulletinofstaten12univ#page/n33/mode/2up (accessed March 29, 2014).
3. “Knitting for the Soldiers,” Viewbook, 1919, , Special Collections and University Archives, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington.
4. “Nurses,” Lalie Lett Webb Scrapbook, 1918, Special Collections and University Archives, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington.
Voices of the Great War Citation
1. A Senior of 1918–19, “A Fine Example of Patriotism,” Bulletin of the State Normal School, Fredericksburg, VA: War Activities, October 1919, 11, Special Collections and University Archives, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington, https://archive.org/stream/bulletinofstaten53univ#page/n11/mode/2up (accessed March 19, 2014).