Married women save war-era schools

World War II created distinct challenges for Joplin Junior college. The war years brought on a decline in the summer of graduates that paralleled the overall drop in enrollment. the 93 who graduated in the spring of 1941 marked a high for the prewar period and a figure that would not be exceeded for seven years. By 1943, wartime attrition had cut heavily into the sophomore class as only 51 graduated. (The ceremony included reading the names of 43 class members who had dropped out to serve in the armed services.) In 1944, the full impact of the war held the graduating class to 29.

One bright spot was summer school enrollment, which had risen to 94 and stayed around 100 during the war years. A primary reason for the strong wartime summer school enrollment was the growing teacher shortage. The war created a major crisis as teachers, traditionally underpaid, left the classrooms for higher paying jobs in industry or to join the armed services. Locally the shortage reached such proportions that then Superintendent of Schools Roi S. Wood later recalled how one year he drove six thousand miles looking for prospects to fill 112 vacancies. Many schools turned to hiring married women. there was a considerable reservoir of women ex-teachers who had been forced out of the profession because they married.

Now they were gladly accepted back. However, state rules required six hours of refresher courses for renewal of their certificates. Many of these people met the requirement by attending the JJC summer sessions. In addition, there were others who were working on their 60-hour elementary certificates. These trainees found ready employment in nearby small town and rural schools at an average salary of $115 per month for a nine-month session.

From:  Renner, G.K. In Pursuit of Excellence: Missouri Southern State College, 1937-1992. Donning Company Publishers, 1993. pp. 33-34.

 

Steve Smith

Stephen E. Smith is News Bureau Manager at Missouri Southern State University and editor-in-chief of "Accents."