Mount St. Joseph University

Modern Pioneer Women

Mount News: alumni magazine

By: Michael Schiavetta

Throughout the years that spanned the Great Depression through World War II, behavior and morality were common subjects in the Mount’s student newspaper. In the August 1943 issue of Seton Journal, Rev. John H. Lamott wrote: “If the Catholic college girl cannot avoid night clubs entirely, she can refuse to attend the unsavory ones, and by discreet disapproval she can check improper speech, behavior, and excessive drink. These actions are expected of any Catholic girl, but peculiarly of the Catholic college girl.”

Carmel Snow, then editor of Harper’s Bazaar, said: “This will be no year for the modest girl.” In response, an editorial in Seton Journal’s March 1944 issue insisted that while manufacturers have been ordered to conserve materials, “there has been no mandate to abandon discretion and to offend womanly modesty.”

Mount women, however, were decidedly entering a new role in society. Popular women’s advice columnist Dorothy Dix (aka Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer) wrote in one of her national syndicated columns: “The day of the clinging-vine woman, the child-wife, and the baby-talk girl is over.” The statement drew ire from some soldiers, one of whom responded that once WWII ended, “the boys don’t want any part of this modern pioneer woman.” An editorial in the April 1944 issue of Seton Journal had this to say in response:

“Mount St. Jo girls like to consider themselves out of the artificial cutie type and more in the class of modern pioneer women. Strictly speaking, they are not among the feminine militarists of the day; nevertheless, they, too, are fighting with their loved ones. They are helping to win the war by prayer, sacrifice, financial aid, and education. The first three of these points [is] usually recognized; the last is often overlooked. Collegians are preparing themselves, by an education, for the fight that will come on a second Armistice Day. For the war will be over then, but it will not be won then. It will not be won until the peace that follows it is made secure. … The men who prefer such women are certainly not the heroes of the bloody beaches of the fighting fronts. The real heroes of this war will look to the girl with intelligence, common sense, and tenderness.”