Category Archives: News

Archives Exhibit Supports DNCR Initiative: “She Changed the World: North Carolina Women Breaking Barriers”

[This blog post was written by Donna E. Kelly, Head of Special Collections.]

The State Archives of North Carolina has put together a display of 10 archival documents and other items relating to women’s suffrage, including the original copy of the Nineteenth Amendment sent to North Carolina for ratification in June of 1919. Usually housed in the vault, this document (along with anti-suffrage and pro-suffrage propaganda, hand-held fans, facsimiles of legislation and political cartoons, and a suffragist’s sash) will be traveling around the state from August 22, 2019 through November of 2020.

Political cartoon from the Equal Suffrage Amendment Collection, PC.1618.1, State Archives of North Carolina.

The exhibit, titled “An Absolute Moral Certainty”: The Woman Suffrage Movement in North Carolina, consists of three panels: “Early Efforts Supporting Suffrage for Women,” “Post-War Opposition to Suffrage for Women,” and “Suffrage for All Women.” The title of the exhibit comes from a quote out of Gov. Thomas W. Bickett’s address to the joint session of the General Assembly on August 13, 1920, in which he urges legislators to ratify the amendment.

This display is part of a 15-month long DNCR commemoration of women gaining the right to vote. Titled, “She Changed the World: North Carolina Women Breaking Barriers,” it highlights the accomplishments of women across the centuries. A kickoff event at the State Capitol is planned for Saturday, September 7, 2019. For more information visit

In addition to the traveling exhibit, the State Archives is also conducting an oral history project to interview 100 women from across the state who have made significant contributions in areas like government/politics, education, STEM, culture, athletics, activism, or entrepreneurship. For more information about how to get involved visit

Additional resources pertaining to women’s suffrage are found in the North Carolina Digital Collections, a collaborative project between the State Library and the State Archives. To view those resources, visit

“An Absolute Moral Certainty”: The Woman Suffrage Movement in North Carolina

The National Woman Suffrage Association, founded by Susan B. Anthony, began pressuring Congress in the 1870s to amend the Constitution to guarantee women’s right to vote. Even though that effort failed, several states and territories granted suffrage through their state constitutions. North Carolina’s chapter of the Equal Suffrage Association, formed in 1894, had the same goal. The first attempt to grant women suffrage in North Carolina came in February of 1897 when J. L. Hyatt, a Republican from Yancey County, introduced a bill in the state senate. Legislators referred it to the Committee on Insane Asylums because Hyatt chaired that committee. The bill, which never made it out of committee, was eventually tabled and no action was taken.

At the turn of the twentieth century, activity to promote women’s suffrage subsided until 1913. Among others, Gertrude Weil (1879–1971) of Goldsboro helped establish local chapters of the Equal Suffrage Association. She served as president and fought tirelessly for ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. She went on to serve as president of the League of Women Voters and lived to see the amendment finally ratified in her home state on May 6, 1971, only a few weeks before her death on May 30, 1971.

An undated picture of Gertrude Weil from the Gertrude Weil Papers, PC.1488.50, State Archives.

Pro-suffrage efforts by the Equal Suffrage Association included lobbying legislators, writing letters to state leaders, and distributing printed media (circulars, broadsides, and pamphlets) to support the cause. Long before e-mail, mass-produced form letters targeted certain audiences. Hundreds of letters were mailed to prominent residents of the state asking them to encourage their local representatives to support the amendment. Suffragists also wore sashes for rallies, parades, and street speaking.

The Equal Suffrage Association was not equal in the true sense of the word. It excluded African Americans, who began to assert their own political rights through churches, clubs, and suffrage societies. Women of color, like Charlotte Hawkins Brown, traveled extensively around the state promoting women’s suffrage and racial equality. She advanced education among her community and was a strong advocate of voter registration for all races of women.

A ca. 1910s image of Charlotte Hawkins Brown provided by North Carolina State Historic Sites.

Despite the concerted effort of suffragists, the 1915 legislature did not support the amendment, either as a state or federal constitutional amendment. The main opponents were white legislators from those counties with a sizeable African American population. They feared that people of color would be allowed to vote again, after decades of disenfranchisement. Using white supremacist tactics, some handbills warned Southern men to avoid even associating with women who were asking for equal suffrage, because giving women the right to vote would unleash “another period of reconstruction horror.”

Part of a larger broadside entitled, “The Negro and the New Social Order,” this 1919 anti-suffrage handbill is from the Equal Suffrage Amendment Collection, PC.1618.1, State Archives.

After World War I, on the heels of substantial wartime contributions by women, members of the Equal Suffrage Association felt confident that the North Carolina legislature would ratify the amendment. However, that did not happen, and legislators thwarted other attempts to allow women to vote in primaries or municipal elections.

On January 10, 1918, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate approved the Nineteenth Amendment. To become law, 36 out of 48 states needed to ratify it. North Carolina’s General Assembly received its copy of the amendment on June 12, 1919. By that time 35 states had ratified it, so only one more state needed to approve it. All eyes were on North Carolina at the national level.

This cartoon appeared on the back of a national pro-suffrage magazine. It uses the popular game “Love Me, Love Me Not?” to point out the North Carolina legislature’s indecision on the issue of women’s suffrage. From the Equal Suffrage Amendment Collection, PC.1618.1, State Archives.

Over the course of the next year, anti-suffrage groups sprang into action. Mary Hilliard Hinton (1869–1961) of Knightdale founded a state branch of the Southern League for the Rejection of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment (Southern Rejection League). Backed by legislators who wanted to retain their seats in the General Assembly and textile owners who opposed child labor restrictions, this group was very active, using the same strategies as the pro-suffrage organizations. The States’ Rights Defense League formed in opposition to the federal amendment, asserting that it would destroy southern womanhood and disturb the American home. It also claimed that men would have to assume household duties.

Anti-suffrage broadside, a portion of which is from the Equal Suffrage Amendment Collection, PC.1618.1, State Archives.

Gov. Thomas W. Bickett called for a special session of the General Assembly to begin August 10, 1920 to vote on whether to ratify the amendment or not. At the start of the special session, 63 House members sent a Western Union Special telegram to the Tennessee General Assembly, dated August 11, 1920, urging them to reject the amendment. The telegram assured the legislators that North Carolina would not vote for women’s suffrage. It was a last-ditch effort to keep the Old North State from having to decide the fate of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment.

Governor Bickett addressed the joint session of the General Assembly on August 13, 1920. He claimed that he personally opposed the amendment but realized the inevitability of its adoption. Therefore, he encouraged legislators to vote for it because ratification was “an absolute moral certainty” and “it would be the part of wisdom and of grace for North Carolina to ratify the amendment.”

After some debate, on August 17, 1920 the N.C. senate voted 25 to 23 to delay the matter until the 1921 session, on the grounds that they wanted enough time to discuss the matter with their constituents before voting. The bottom line was that they wanted to avoid making such a momentous and far-reaching decision. It became a moot point when Tennessee voted for ratification on August 18, 1920 and white women were granted the right to vote in the November 1920 election.

A few years later the Indian Citizenship Act asserted Native American women’s right to vote in 1924. African American women did not have a guaranteed right to vote until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Even though North Carolina’s legislature (and many of its residents) did not support the Nineteenth Amendment initially, and women already possessed the right to vote and had been exercising it, the General Assembly finally ratified it, albeit symbolically, on May 6, 1971. There was no dissension and it passed both houses unanimously.

Grosgrain sash from the Equal Suffrage Amendment Collection, PC.1618.1, State Archives.

New Digital Collection: Future Homemakers of America Association

The records of the North Carolina Future Homemakers Association, part of the Division of Vocational Education, Department of Public Instruction, are now available online.


Future Homemakers of America and New Homemakers of America associations officially began in 1945, focusing on education in family and consumer sciences. The associations were based in schools, known as chapters, which were supported by teachers known as advisors. Future Homemakers of America and New Homemakers of America were separate associations based on race, though guided by the same parent agency. The two associations merged in 1965 when school segregation ended.

The Future Homemakers of America North Carolina Association digital collection has materials from 1929 to 1984. The collection consists primarily of photographs and administrative records, including local chapter materials, handbooks, correspondence, and more.

NC Supreme Court microfilm series update

The Imaging Unit of the State Archives of North Carolina has just completed imaging and creating microfilm for the Fall 1966 term of the Supreme Court of North Carolina. The sixty-one new reels of microfilm have been added to the security vault and a reading copy is available for public use – just ask at the main reference desk and reference staff will assist you.

Microfilm reel call numbers S.110.2158 to S.110.2218 cover case files 1 through 837.

To use microfilm at the State Archives of North Carolina please come to the main registration desk. Once registered, a Reference Archivist can assist you in locating and using the microfilm.

To order duplicate reels of microfilm in Diazo, Silver Halide, or digital format contact Chris Meekins at

The modern North Carolina Supreme Court records (case files and opinions) are being microfilmed for preservation purposes by the Imaging Unit. As more records are imaged, updates will be posted. The Imaging Unit hopes that researchers will find these projects useful.

Document Facsimiles Relating to Slave Research on Display at the State Archives of North Carolina

[This blog is written and illustrated by Fran Tracy-Walls, Private Manuscripts Archivist, Special Collections Section, of the State Archives of North Carolina.]

The Search Room exhibit case, August 2019, features examples of resources for researchers seeking information about enslaved ancestors. The title is “Evidence of African American Ancestors in Unlikely Places: Examples from Private Collections, Including Account Books, at the State Archives of North Carolina.”

Photo of the exhibit case in the Search Room with facsimile documents on display.
Search Room exhibit case.
Photo of an African American woman sitting in a chair with her hair up in a bun. she is wearing a checkered shirt and a long, dark colored skirt.
Emma Jones Allen, emancipated from slavery. Allen, Carter, Gwynn Family Collection, PC.2154.V.12

Researching enslaved ancestors can be a challenging and sometimes frustrating process. One must work backwards from the known to the unknown, often turning up more questions than answers. However, private manuscript collections, including account books, sometimes provide crucial information about names, locales, and other details. These can supplement county records such as deeds, wills, and court minutes and can provide valuable insights not found elsewhere. The examples below represent the facsimiles in the exhibit and the accompanying captions.

Note of Permission from William Ezell, Sr. for Slave, James, to Marry, Signed July 24, 1825
Note of Permission from William Ezell, Sr. for Slave, James, to Marry, Signed July 24, 1825

In this note of permission, William Ezell, Sr., advises Col. E. Peete that his slave James, who wishes to marry one of Peete’s slaves, is “as well Disposed as common as fair [sic] as I know or believe.” No county is listed, but during the first half of the 19th century there were men named William Ezell in counties including Camden Duplin, Granville, and Richmond. Note: Help solve the mystery. We welcome confirmation of the county where the Ezell and Peete plantations were located.

From Slave Collection. PC.1629. Box 1, Folder 4.

Deed: Marriage Contract of Bennett T. Blake & Scheherazade Mial, Wake County, N.C., 16 Feb. 1837 (two excerpts from longer document)
Deed: Marriage Contract of Bennett T. Blake & Scheherazade Mial, Wake County, N.C., 16 Feb. 1837 (two excerpts from longer document)
Deed: Marriage Contract of Bennett T. Blake & Scheherazade Mial, Wake County, N.C., 16 Feb. 1837 (two excerpts from longer document)

Oaky Grove Plantation, southeastern Wake County, was owned first by Thomas Price, then Bennett T. Blake. Blake had married a Price daughter, Fetna, who died in 1836, then married her sister, Scheherazade, widow of Thomas Alonzo Mial III, who had died in 1830. The slaves named in the marriage contract between Scheherazade and Blake, were part of the Mial estate. Thomas Price was also one of the county’s largest slaveholders. Note the juxtaposition: in addition to enslaved men, women, and children, Scheherezade’s contract secured physical properties, such as a four-wheel carriage and harness.

From the Alonzo T. & Millard Mial Papers, PC.132. Box 25, Folder 3.

Bill of Sale, 1845: George W. Styron of Carteret County, N.C., Sells Two Slave Children, Harriet and Hannah, to William Jones, a Free Mulatto of Jones County, N.C.
Bill of Sale, 1845: George W. Styron of Carteret County, N.C., Sells Two Slave Children, Harriet and Hannah, to William Jones, a Free Mulatto of Jones County, N.C.

This bill of sale, dated 22 July 1845, documents the sale by George W. Styron, Carteret County, to William Jones, Jones County, of five-year-old-Harriet and nine-year-old Hannah. In 1860, the same William Jones was still living and farming in the Beaver Creek District, Jones County, where he died in 1868. The collection and public records shed little if any additional light on the life journey of these two girls. The Rumley papers, however, do contain other materials and types of document on slaves and freedmen. For additional information see the State Archives blog, History for All the People, for a post written by Elizabeth Crowder and entitled “The Rumley Family Papers: A New Collection Featuring Resources for Researchers Seeking Information About Enslaved Ancestors.

From Rumley Family Papers, PC.1969, Box 2, Folder 51.

Promissory Note for Hire of a Negro boy, Simon, Wake County, 27 Dec. 1847
Promissory Note for Hire of a Negro boy, Simon, Wake County, 27 Dec. 1847


“Twelve months after date we promise to pay Thomas F. Grice Ex. [Executor] of Hugh Lee, Dec’d, on order Twenty Seven Dollars for the hire of a negro Boy named Simon [.] Said negro to have the following clothes [:]Two suits of cotton clothes and one of woolen, one pair of Double soled shoes, one pair of stockings, one good Blanket, one wool Hat for value received on this 27 Dec. 1847.”
Signed by A. T. Mial (Also, C. Bryan; A. Montague, Witnesses)

From the Alonzo T. & Millard Mial Papers, PC.132. Box 25, Folder 4-B.

Deeds of Gift Bequeathing Peter and Ailsey, Robeson County, 1851
Deeds of Gift Bequeathing Peter and Ailsey, Robeson County, 1851

Peter and Ailsey, a man of forty-five and a girl of fifteen, the subjects of these deeds of gift, were enslaved by the McKay family of Robeson County. In 1851, “for the love and affection” Christian McKay Galbreath had for her two nephews, Duncan and Dougald McKay, she sold Peter and Ailsey to them for a dollar each. Peter died in 1896. Ailsey’s descendants continued to live on the McKay farm into the 20th century.

McKay, McPherson, McNeill Family Papers, PC.2144.3 McKay Family Papers, 1790–1984, Box 3, Folder 01.

Receipt for sale of Catey, and her three children, Mary, Richard, and Sally (Wilmington, N.C.) 1853
Receipt for sale of Catey, and her three children, Mary, Richard, and Sally (Wilmington, N.C.) 1853

Slave receipt/bill of sale, with one for Catey, and her three children, Mary, Richard, and Sally; and the other for Cloey, a girl. The documents are dated 4 May 1853 and 5 March 1862, respectively. The receipt shown was given at Wilmington, New Hanover County, N.C. by Ansley Davis to Speir [Spier] Walters, in the amount of $1,000 for Catey, a slave woman and children, Mary, Richard, and Sally. Receipt attests that all are healthy, but the child Mary is “marked with burns.”

From the Bill of Sale of Catey and Children [and one other bill of sale] Collection, PC.2094.

Impressment of John, Slave of A. T. Mial, for Service as a Teamster, Supposedly for Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, 15 March 1864
Impressment of John, Slave of A. T. Mial, for Service as a Teamster, Supposedly for Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, 15 March 1864


“E O. Wake Co. Raleigh, N.C. March 15 [1864] This day received of A. T. Mial one negro Slave named John aged 26 years for duty as teamster in Genrl. Johnson’s army.” Signed by E. Porter, Capt. E.O. Wake County. The slaveholder referred to was probably Alonzo Thomas Rush Mial, Sr. (1823–1897), the son of Thomas Alonzo Mial (1799–1830) and Scheherazade Price Mial Blake (1805–1853).

Note: Teamsters loaded and drove supply trains/wagons, often returning in dangerous terrain to the march or to the camp. The Confederate government had passed a slave impressment law on March 26, 1863. Slaves were used extensively, though the effort was not as successful as the generals had hoped.

From the Alonzo T. & Millard Mial Papers, PC.132. Box 25, Folder 18.

Page from Joseph & William Peace Account Book, Wake County: Slave Birth and Death Dates, 1852–1864
Page from Joseph & William Peace Account Book, Wake County: Slave Birth and Death Dates, 1852–1864

The J. & W. Peace general store was located on Fayetteville Street in Raleigh, from approximately 1798 until 1832, when the store burned. Before and after the building’s demise, the proprietors used the store ledger to keep a record of slaves owned by them and other family members, with slave birth and death dates ranging from 1784 to 1864. Example shown is one of six pages of entries.

Page Section and Scrap from Joseph & William Peace Account Book, Wake County: Slave Births and Death Dates, 1852–1864
Page Section and Scrap from Joseph & William Peace Account Book, Wake County: Slave Births and Death Dates, 1852–1864

The note written on a piece of scrap paper (bottom of photo) recorded names and birth dates temporarily until they could be entered permanently into the account book (top of photo):

Matilda (daughter of Mary) born 4th March 1864.
Patsey (daughter of Harriet) born 22nd April 1864.

Both document photos above from the Joseph & William Peace Account Book, 1784–1864, Wake County. Page 297. PC.AB.132.

In summary, researchers of enslaved populations and freedmen in North Carolina may find a variety of resources, both in public and private records. County records contain deeds, wills, and court minutes, and some counties have a miscellaneous series that contains slave records. While these can be rich sources, private collections and account books surely supplement public records in ways that have often been overlooked.

Private Collections

Written by Faith Baxter, Digital Services Intern

Imagine playing a game of hide and seek and wandering into a room with over 3,000 private collections rarely seen by anyone except for you. Inside of the collections are inspiring stories about individuals, families, businesses, politicians, judges, and other influential people from North Carolina. These stories, filled with tremendous amounts of information, were just waiting to be discovered.  

The above narrative reminds me of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Although fictional, readers of all ages love Narnia because of the great collection of stories, characters, and truths that are meaningful to them. Just think of what you could discover once you take the first step!

The Private Collections (PCs) section of the State Archives has been keeping collections for over one hundred years, dating back to the 1700s. Included in the PCs are approximately 3,000 different collections composed of manuscripts, correspondence, family accolades, letters, diaries, photos, recordings, and financial and legal records. These materials are collected from a wide variety of individuals, families, and businesses from around the state and add to the rich culture and history of North Carolina.  

Fran Tracy-Walls

Fran Tracy-Walls is the Private Manuscripts Archivist and is the person responsible for managing North Carolina’s PCs. She is also the first contact when wanting to donate your collection. [or for those wanting to donate a collection.] Some of Fran’s favorite materials, from her years of collecting on behalf of the state, include personal letters, diaries, and account books. She particularly enjoys identifying the situational, physical, and cultural descriptors left by letter writers so that she can understand the context while reading. Fran loves finding scarce information that can help with genealogical research and gives a sense of the period or obstacles faced. She seeks papers that reflect experiences of North Carolinians whose heritage and lives are inadequately represented in our current holdings. Examples include African American, Native American, Hispanic, or Asian Pacific individuals or families.

The State Archives provides for, through legislation, not only the preservation of these materials, but also public access to them. The collections provide a unique story about North Carolina and its history and culture. There is a great deal of information given through these collections and there is a process by which these materials get accessioned and ready for public use. The digitization of these materials is harder to provide because of the large quantity of donated materials and a lack of funding. These collections are available to the public,  but they are required to be used in the Search Room where researchers are given full assistance by the wonderful reference staff.  

The PCs hold information that has been kept for generations but has not been published. Researchers and archivists find these materials to be interesting artifacts that can be used to teach different subjects. The Guide to Women’s Records gives a wide variety of information that includes but is not limited to, correspondence, private manuscript materials, women’s organization notes, account books, photographs, and government documents. While spending time updating the Guide, I have come across many remarkable private collections of phenomenal women.

Dr. Lavonia Allison (PC. 2049)

Dr. Lavonia Allison

Dr. Allison is a visionary whose inspiring story holds so much power, determination, and leadership. She donated her collection and it includes, Clippings, Correspondence, Memorandum, Yearbooks, Brochures, and Committee reports. Dr. Allison is widely known for her outstanding leadership in the political arena; and her commitment to the re-creation of a fair and just society in which all citizens can shape their own destiny through both the educational and political processes. She was a member of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, where she served in many capacities, including the chair, from 1998 to 2012. Dr. Allison has served on 60 boards and community/professional organizations in her lifetime and she adds so much to the culture and history of Durham.

Betty Ann Knudsen (PC. 1960)

Betty Ann Knudsen

Betty Ann Leonard Knudsen was a trailblazing female politician and community activist in Wake County, as well as an avid butterfly lover. She was the first female chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners from 1976 to 1984. She served on numerous boards, councils, and associations at the state and local level since the 1970s. Knudsen paved the way for future female candidates by running for N.C. Secretary of State. She has been an active mentor to other women in politics and leadership positions. Her collection includes correspondence between Betty Ann Knudsen and various politicians on a political and personal level; correspondence related to the Royal Order of the Butterflies; her children’s book, DVD, and butterfly presentations; material reflecting her political and community action and involvement; and personal correspondence with family members and friends from the 1970s to the 2000s.

These are just a few of the collections. Just imagine what you might come across!

Contact Information:

Questions about the Women’s Record Guide:

Fran Tracy-Walls
Private Manuscripts Archivist, Special Collections
State Archives of North Carolina
(919) 814-6856

Welcome Our New State Records Intern

“Start unknown, finish unforgettable.”

This quote from Misty Copeland, the first African American performer to be appointed as a principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre, inspires me to push forward toward my goal of becoming the first African American woman to be attorney general for the state of North Carolina. Before I do that, I’ll need to complete my internship this summer with the State Archives of North Carolina.

My name is Eyricka Johnson and I am from Wake Forest, North Carolina. I am currently a senior graduating December 2019 at Elizabeth City State University with a major in History and a minor in Public History. After graduation, I plan on attending North Carolina Central University to earn a Master of History degree along with my Juris Doctorate.

This is my second summer interning with the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.  Last year, while interning at the Museum of the Albemarle, I worked on conserving objects that were later used in the river bridge, memorable sands and craftsman fair exhibits.  I also led summer educational camps for a variety of age groups

This summer I am interning at the State Records Center.  I will be analyzing a group of records from the Bureau of Work Among Negroes.  In 1925 the Bureau of Work Among Negroes, an agency under Public Welfare, was created to assist the welfare of African Americans. My task is to identify ways that the Bureau assisted African Americans, create a display in the Search Room, and look at other state agencies to identify services they too may have provided for African Americans prior to the Civil Rights Movement.

With my enthusiasm for African American history and my love for researching, I am very excited about working with this group of materials.  I am thrilled about working another year with the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to get a better understanding of the department’s contribution in making North Carolina the great state that it is.  Be on the lookout for my next blog post on the 25 most interesting documents I’ve found so far.

If you have any questions about my project, feel free to email me

Documenting the World of Outlander – The Posters of World War II

Contributed by Josh Hager and Alison Thurman, Public Services Unit

Welcome back to Documenting the World of Outlander! While we wait with bated breath for the next season of Outlander, we will continue this blog series with the aim of releasing a new entry each month during the hiatus. We hope that we can provide some interesting historical content that supplements your interest in the show.

For our first season hiatus blog, we’re going to focus on a topic that we would have covered if we had this blog series when Season One aired. Unlike all our prior entries that focused on colonial North Carolina, this time we’re zeroing in on Claire’s origins as a nurse in the Second World War. While the State Archives of North Carolina does not have records of the British military from the Second World War, we do have a great deal of material on the involvement of North Carolinians in that most significant conflict. Researchers interested in seeing our holdings concerning World War II should consult our finding aids on the State Archives of North Carolina website. Some collections are currently undergoing reprocessing, so if you expect an item and do not see a finding aid, please contact the Archives directly for further information. In this blog, we will focus specifically on the World War II posters collected from various official and private organizations. The World War II posters are available on our Digital Collections website to browse and search by keyword.

The first two posters that connect to Outlander represent nursing, Claire’s profession while serving Great Britain. As in the United Kingdom, the US government mounted a publicity campaign to encourage women to enlist as nurses. For example, consider this poster below, created in 1942 by the Office of War Information where the hands of a patriotic figure, perhaps Uncle Sam, bestow the tell-tale nurse’s hat to a new recruit.

“Become a Nurse – Your Country Needs You,” Office of War Information, 1942. World War II Papers. Military Collection. State Archives of North Carolina. MilColl.WWII.Posters.2.16.c1

In our second example, the message focuses on personal rather than patriotic benefits. Artist Jon Whitcomb created this 1944 poster for the US Public Health Service asking women to become cadet nurses. The poster proclaims that cadet nurses are the girls “with a future” because they would receive “a lifetime education FREE for high school graduates who qualify.” Aside from having a multi-faceted publicity campaign, the gap of two years between the posters might help to explain the difference in targeted messaging. In 1942, with the Pearl Harbor attack still fresh in the collective conscience, appeals to patriotism alone would have likely proven effective. By 1944, while patriotism was still a strong motivator to enlist in the military, the prolonged fighting on multiple fronts led to a sense of fatigue in some civilians as well as a desire to look forward at what society would look like once hostilities ceased. Therefore, appealing to a post-war future where women could gain the skills necessary to enter the workforce made a lot of marketing sense.

Jan Whitcomb. “Be a Cadet Nurse – The Girl With a Future,” 1944. US Public Health Service. World War II Papers. Military Collection. State Archives of North Carolina. MilColl.WWII.Posters.2.15.c1

Looking more specifically at Claire’s medical career in the Outlander series, it is important to place Claire’s penchant for healing within the context of her life events up to the onset of the Second World War. Claire lost her parents at a very young age and lived a nomadic life as a child with her uncle, an archeologist. Her first opportunity for a stable home and family is her marriage, which is disrupted when England enters WWII and she and her husband volunteer for service. Claire’s interest in nursing stems from her wanting to become a part of something bigger during a time of such suffering and from her natural talents as a healer. In the beginning, her decision to serve as a nurse stems from patriotism. As the war goes on, while Claire’s patriotism does not waver, her nursing experience becomes an outlet for her to explore her natural interest in healing. While Claire remained unsure of her medical future when she fell through the stones, her experience during the war gave her the confidence to continue as a healer. From her time in Scotland in 1948 through to her time in the United States and medical school in 1957, Claire built upon her nursing experience to become an accomplished medical professional.

Let’s now shift from a discussion of nursing to a poster talking about the role of the United Kingdom in World War II more broadly. The World War II Poster Collection contains several posters that mention Great Britain in her role as an ally, both before and after American involvement began in December 1941. We will highlight one example here that provides a stark illustration of the stakes of the World War. Artist Maxwell Gordon composed the striking image below showing a Nazi boot crushing the New York skyline. Gordon’s poster, commissioned by the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies, intended to scare Americans into a greater level of involvement in helping Great Britain fend off the forces of the Third Reich. The Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies only lasted for two years, from 1940 to 1941, but the organization contributed to the growing percentages of Americans who advocated for more active assistance to the Allied forces before the bombing at Pearl Harbor. You can learn more about this organization through this historical outline written by archivists at Princeton University, where the committee’s papers are kept.

Maxwell Gordon. “Help Britain Defend America: Speed Production,” [1940-1942]. Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies. World War II Papers. Military Collection. State Archives of North Carolina. MilColl.WWII.Posters.12.13.

Claire saw posters like these strewn throughout London before she traveled back to the 18th Century and a certain Scotsman. The 1940s was a peak time for posters of the marketing and propaganda varieties. Imagine going from the world that created these posters to a pre-American Revolution in Scotland (and all the places and times in-between). Claire Fraser’s personal journey is worthy of a poster all its own.

Stay tuned for our next blog as we cover another topic that informs the Fraser’s arc throughout the series. We will soon “cross the pond” as we discuss colonial-era immigration from Europe to North Carolina.