Fredonia Normal School
The Post-War Years
Fredonia State Teachers College, 1942-1948
Fredonia State Teachers College,
State University of New York, 1948-1960
During World War II, women workers became the backbone of the country. They maintained
the workplace and the domestic space. Women always worked, but during this time their
work was acknowledged. Traditional barriers blocking women workers were lowered. World
War II caused a scarcity of males on campus. The men who did attend Fredonia were not
subject to curfews or visitation rules. They were free to work where they pleased, go
to bed when they wanted - and drive automobiles.
In Fall 1941 and again in 1942, Fredonia women students joined the community effort to
pick the grape crop. Classes were cancelled while the students saved a major portion of
the county's economy. Some of the money the women earned went to build the College Lodge
in nearby Brocton. Anita Anderes Day, Classes of 1939 and '43, who served as the first
female president of the student government, helped to finalize the plans.
Olga Cielnicky Leone, Class of 1947, was part of the war class, and a member of the
"grape savers." The war had a profound impact on the way Leone and her classmates lived.
Each household was issued coupon books to ration meat, butter, and milk. On the weekends,
she and her friends took part in a "bandage rolling group" to assist wounded soldiers who
had returned home. She lived on a dollar a day. Because the ratio of women to men was 50
to 1, dating wasn't an option for most but still, Leone felt that "a lot of women went to
college to catch a husband." She, however, had higher education as her goal.
When the war ended, so did the job opportunities for women. Rosie the Riveter disappeared
as quickly as she was created; returning soldiers took over the places women had created
for themselves during the war. This change disappointed many women whose contributions
were forgotten in a few short years.
The women students of Fredonia encountered both an exciting and constraining experience
as college students during this time. Women faculty and faculty wives faced a similar yet
very different situation in regard to their positions in the community. Often leaving
family, friends, and jobs, many educated women accompanied their husbands to Fredonia.
Student researcher Kelly Rosemellia noted that until 1971 the Board of Trustees of the
State University of New York maintained a policy which stated that "no parent, child,
brother, sister, husband or wife of any member of the academic faculty or staff of any
college, other than a full-time student employed on a part-time basis, shall be appointed
to any position of employment at such college." This policy severely limited the number of
jobs for women in the academic environment. A common belief was that men were better
qualified, and deserved the positions more, simply because they were men supporting
families. Women hired at the college were usually secretaries, cleaning personnel, or
librarians. In these jobs they excelled, slowly changing the system through their
determination, intelligence, and creativity.