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Class of '43
Activists and Scholars

udent Action Committee memebers kick off their drive to raise books for Europe's libraries. Courtesy of MHC Archives (78)
Students promoting defense savings bonds and stamps. Courtesy of MHC Archives (79)

Liberal Arts Patriots
The class of 1943 recently celebrated a 60th reunion on the MHC campus and some returned this fall to participate in '"Artists, Intellectuals, and World War II: The Pontigny Encounters at Mount Holyoke College, 1942-44." These talented alumnae remembered participating in the war effort on and off campus and had many interesting recollections related to their time here.

  • Patricia Best Morten served in the U.S. Navy as a communications officer. Her Navy training actually started while she was still in school. A Religion major, she was one of approximately three dozen young women chosen to participate in a cryptography class held on campus. All students who participated were checked out thoroughly by the Navy, as were their families. The cryptography class, held at 6:30 a.m. so as not to interfere with the student's regular classes, was ungraded, and taken in addition to her normal courseload. One distinct difference from her other classes was the secrecy surrounding this class. All the young women were told to maintain complete silence about the class and firmly instructed not to tell anyone at all what they were doing.
  • Ernestine Stowell enlisted in the Marine Corps following her graduation from MHC. Ms. Stowell remained in the Women's Reserve following the war and retired as a full colonel in 1977. She and many of the other girls watched the WAVES and Marines marching drills and vividly recalls the precision with which they executed their maneuvers and the friendly rivalry between the servicewomen. One of her campus residences, Hitchcock House, a small dorm on Morgan Road, was located behind the French House occupied by Pierre and Charlotte Guedenet of the French department. While Ernestine was walking to class one morning, she passed M. Guedenet as he read his morning paper, and heard him exclaim to his wife "All Europe is at war! I'm French, I must go."
  • Arax Simsarian, Bennie Irwin and Gayle Stubbs McClung all enlisted after graduating also, Arax and Bennie in the Navy WAVES and Gayle in the Marine Corps. One strong campus memory for them was the establishment of the "heat cops" on campus. They also remembered the Swiss student who hid her bottle of wine by suspending it out the window on a string. The heat cops often turned a blind eye to that window.
  • Heat cops -There was a serious fuel shortage due to the war and Mount Holyoke was attempting to conserve oil. At an oil conservation rally held in Chapin Auditorium on December 8, 1942, President Ham asked for cooperation from all students to conserve fuel. He made several suggestions to students such as shutting off radiators when heat was not required, staying away from doors and windows and he asked for cooperation with the "heat cops". The heat cops were a group of students who assumed responsibility for closing the dorm windows in the morning. Dorm windows could only be open at night, when the heat was turned off. The heat cops closed all the windows each day at 5:45 a.m. when the heat came back on.(80)

Due to the fuel shortage, Christmas break was extended that year from January 20th to February 1st. All other calendar dates were changed also, leaving the semester unchanged in length, in keeping with the Mount Holyoke tradition of never shortchanging the student.(81)

A majority of the young women of the class of '43 served on the numerous projects and committees which were organized in those early years of the war. As noted above, many students later served in the armed forces following their graduation. (See rosters below)



Atlas Home Page MHC Goes to War Student Activities Pontigny Eleanor Roosevelt
Marines WAVES 1943 Roster 1945 Roster