Women in Wichita Falls
Women often play the unspoken role in history. In Wichita Falls women were finding themselves at a crossroad; Should they join the professional progression and branch out in their careers or keep to the traditional role of mother and housewife. Regardless of their decision the ability to choose was an exciting advancement. The role of women during the Great War in Wichita Falls was essential to the social life of the community. From putting on dances for the men stationed in Call Field to creating scholarships for young women’s education, women in Wichita Falls made a significant impact on society.
FUN FACT: In terms of being a profession, women military pilots are a very small minority. However, Sheppard Air Force NATO base, located in Wichita Falls TX, proudly employs multiple women pilots.
Women during the early 1900s were slowly progressing upward in society. Women were slowly moving out of the traditional role of being a housewife and mother and into the work force. World War One provided yet another opportunity for women to prove their ability to relay on themselves.
In Wichita Fall’s women were celebrating their new found possibilities. The professions of women were no longer limited to teachers and clerk women but not extend to “real-estate dealers, oil operative enterprises, teachers, lawyers, doctors, artists, stenographers, insurance dealers, bankers, clerks, and such”(105). The large range of professions naturally lead to a Business and Professionals Women’s Club, that was a “strong unit”(105). The Club prided itself in always having a successful women president as well as extravagant meetings and speakers. Along with the professionals club there were several civic organizations such as Young Women’s Christian Association which helped young women seeking work within the city. The Federated Missionary Society was created after the start of the war and was used to help unify their workforce. The Patriotic Clubs, a highly exclusive club where membership was given by “virtue of being of direct descent from some patriot who fought in the American Revolution.”(118) The Major Frances Grice Chapter of Wichita Falls was created in 1911 and their greatest accomplishment was to aid in scholarships and academic support. The Daughters of the Confederacy was organized in 1912. This chapter played an active role in Wichita Falls community during The Great war. Along with multiple organizations there were several clubs available to the working women of Wichita Falls, such as the Unity Club, The New Century Club, and the Civic League, all of which assisted in the community during the Great War. Most proudly, the Lions Club were featured in the August 22, 1917 edition of the Wichita Daily Times with the article titled “Lions will help needy families enlisted men”, proving that the the main objective of every club and organization was to help the community.
While Call Field was under construction the women of Wichita Falls played a crucial part in assisting the workmen and later the airmen. From providing lunches for the constructors of Call Field to hosting dances the women played a major social role in Wichita Falls. The dances hosted by the young women of Wichita Falls were mentioned regularly in the newspaper such in the the June 7, 1918 edition of the Wichita Falls Daily Times when they stated “Thirty-Five Couples Enjoyed Delightful Program at St. James Hotel Last Night”. When the war was in full swing, local women would dedicate time to volunteer at the Red Cross and knit gloves and scarfs for the men who were called into draft. Professionally proving themselves, in several issues of the daily paper, there were adds calling for Nurses and articles praising the hard work of the nurses working in the hospitals.
However, in light of the war and possibly the fear of further separating from traditional American customers, certain policies were put into place in regards to the morality of women. During the year of 1918, a letter was released in the Wichita Daily Times from Washington that stated despite their food conservation acts and Call Field aid to the war front, Wichita Falls cannot be considered 100% patriotic because of the six working prostitution houses. The notion that of the immoral and non-american professions of certain young could possibly exist in Wichita Falls did not sit well with the community. Quickly after the letter was published a law passed to relocated women who were infected with “vener” or were considered immoral by the state to a farm outside the city. In the 1918 June 7th publication of the Wichita Daily Times an article stated “a wired fence will be built about the house and a guard placed to watch that none of the girls return to town until completely cured”. Progression of the women and reassurance of the patriotic duty of the city to rid the society of such behavior continued to be a feature in the Sunday newspapers months following the relocation.