Archive for Sunday, May 14, 2017

World War I in Lawrence: Students leave school for the war effort

May 14, 2017

Editor’s note: As the U.S. marks the 100th anniversary of its entry into World War I this year, local writer Sarah St. John will compile newspaper reports of what it was like to be in Lawrence at that time.

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In mid-April, 1917, the Journal-World reported a “raid of newly enlisted students and student farmers” on Dean Olin Templin’s office. Sixty students had filled out university withdrawal cards, and 35 of those were approved by noon that day. Most of the student had joined the military, but some, responding to a growing scarcity of workers, were going home to help with farm work. (A day later, the principal of the high school was flooded with withdrawal requests from students who also wanted to leave school to work on the farms, but none of these requests were approved.)

University students leaving early for a summer’s work on the farm were to be granted credit for their spring-semester classes. However, a few days later, KU faculty expressed concern that “students were taking advantage of the rule for granting credit and were withdrawing on all sorts of trumped up excuses.” In response, university officials ruled that students withdrawing for farm work would be required to fill out a form to be signed by one parent and by the farmer for whom the student was working. Full credit would be given to the students when they returned, but not, KU officials warned, if it was discovered that students had not lived up to their agreement and stayed on the farm until September 1.

On April 26, it was reported that “out of 900 men enrolled in the college at the beginning of the present semester, ninety-three [had] withdrawn to return to the farm, eighty-six [had] withdrawn to enlist in some branch of the army, while four [had] withdrawn to take jobs vacated by enlisted men.” (One female student, Ruth Beverstock, had also withdrawn to do vegetable garden work in Lawrence, with the intention of turning over her profits to the Red Cross.) The withdrawals were expected to be much heavier when Kansas troops were called into active service.

World War I in Lawrence
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