Found in the Archives: A Message From Your Man in Service

This summer, I am working on the Women and Labor project, a new collaborative project in which I’m using the Mollie Lieber West Papers to create an online exhibit about the life of Mollie and the contributions of women in the labor movement. While I research the history of labor unions, women in the workforce, and Chicago in the 20th century, I am also learning more and more about Mollie West and finding so many cool things in her collection.

Along with Mollie’s many amazing accomplishments in the labor movement and endless stories of her bravery and dedication to social justice, her life included a beautiful love story that is told through letters, objects, and other materials in the collection.

Mollie and Carl Lieber met while working for a newspaper and were married in 1940. Carl volunteered for the Army in 1943.

Mollie and Carl Lieber met while working for a newspaper and were married in 1940. Carl volunteered to join the Army in 1943.

Among Mollie’s papers, there is a small vinyl record. The label has an old Pepsi-Cola logo on it and says, “This is a recorded message from your man in service.” This 78 RPM record holds a sweet audio message from Carl Lieber, Mollie’s first husband, sent to her while he was serving in the Army.

During World War II, Americans joined together to help each other and the servicemen fighting overseas, including companies like Pepsi. From my internet research I learned that Pepsi ran canteens in New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. that provided meals, showers, and other services to military men and women. They also set up recording booths in these canteens and sent a traveling recording booth to other military camps where millions of soldiers were able to create these wonderful audio letters to send to their loved ones. Online, I’ve found people talking about records they’ve found that were recorded in Louisiana, California, and Mississippi.

(Note: This blog post is not an endorsement for Pepsi. While this service they provided likely brought joy to many, companies also benefited from creating a patriotic image and connecting their products to the idea of victory in the war.)

The envelope in which the vinyl record was mailed.

The envelope in which the vinyl record was mailed.

These records were sent from bases and training camps in the United States while soldiers waited to be sent to the war.

These records were sent from bases and training camps in the United States while soldiers waited to be sent to the war.

 

Thanks to a grant from Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities, we were able to have this record and the other audiovisual materials in Mollie’s collection digitized. This gave us the opportunity to hear Carl’s voice and his message for the first time!

We also made another discovery with this digitization. A second record, with a label in Italian, turned out to not contain Italian music as we had expected. This record also held a recorded message from Carl that he had made while on leave for a day in Rome! The touching audio messages on both records reveal a lot about the couple’s relationship and the complex experiences of the war.

This mysterious Italian record turned out to hold another audio letter from Carl. It was able to be digitally preserved despite being very warped from age.

This mysterious Italian record turned out to hold another audio letter from Carl. It was able to be digitally preserved despite being very warped from age.

Carl’s messages and the others I listened to online contain words of encouragement to loved ones not to worry and descriptions of the good things about life in the training camps.

Here is the audio from the first record that Carl sent while in Washington, D.C. I did my best to transcribe Carl’s message, and you can find the transcript below!

“Hello, honey. I thought this would be a very nice way to bring us closer together on my birthday. Although we’re many miles apart, I want you to know that I feel that you are as near and dear to me as you have always been. I’ve never been much at making speeches of this kind, but I’ll try as hard as I can to convey my love to you. I’m making this record in Washington, D.C. I got here on a 12 hour pass. I wrote you a letter about it all. We’ve been married a little over 4 years now and I know you must be going through a pretty trying experience, with your condition and things as they are. But I want you to know that you’ve gotta keep up your morale, and it’s up to us in the armed forces to keep up the civilian morale. That’s why I felt I should make this record and give you a chance to hear my voice so you can celebrate my birthday, even though I’m not there with you to celebrate it together. I love you very much and feel that you should be with me, but I’m sure that as soon as we’re victorious in the war, we can be together and have a fine time together and do all the things we planned to do. Well, I’m getting …my own monotone, so don’t worry about it. I’m not going to sing a song for you, but I want to say now as I close that I love you very much and want you to keep healthy and keep well and do everything possible in order to see that you have a nice life in the future, and that means take care of that baby that’s comin’ along. So long, honey. I love you.”

The Women and Labor digital exhibit will feature the audio from both of these records, as well as more documents, photographs, videos, and artifacts that tell Mollie’s incredible story and the story of women in the labor movement. Follow the Women and Leadership Archives on Facebook to learn more and don’t miss the launch of the exhibit this August!


 

Caroline blog photo
Caroline Lynd Giannakopoulos is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and has just completed her Master’s in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. She spends her spare time exploring Chicago, interpreting dreams, and watching cheesy movies with her husband.


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Sister Safety

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Exploring the files of Sister Mary Carmelyn McMahon

Exploring the files of Sister Mary Carmelyn McMahon

As part of our Women’s History Month activities, I worked on creating a display showcasing materials from the collection of Mundelein College, a Catholic women’s college that was once located next to Loyola. The exhibit focused on two of Mundelein’s art professors and two students who went on to have successful art careers. This was another great opportunity to find new things and learn more about life at this unique college for women.

As I researched the art professors of Mundelein, I found interesting details on the life of Sister Mary Carmelyn. Sister Mary Carmelyn McMahon was born in Missoula, Montana in 1905 and taught at Mundelein from 1934 to 1954. Sister Mary Carmelyn designed several of the college’s Christmas cards and even illustrated the Graduate Pledge, which was taken by seniors at every commencement ceremony.

Sister Mary Carmelyn working with the Safety Council

Sister Mary Carmelyn working with the Safety Council

The Mundelein College Graduate Pledge, created by Sister Mary Carmelyn

The Mundelein College Graduate Pledge, created by Sister Mary Carmelyn

While inspiring students in her role as a teacher, Sister Mary Carmelyn discovered something else about which she was passionate. She began the College Safety Council at Mundelein in 1943 and spent her time learning and sharing ways to prevent accidents on school campuses and beyond. In the 1940s, she dedicated much of her time to the Red Cross and was appointed to serve on many safety councils, including the Education Committee of President Truman’s Conference on Highway Safety. She even taught the other BVM’s to swim. I wish we had a photo of that to share!

A World War II poster warning about one of the many safety hazards of the workplace.

A World War II poster warning about one of the many safety hazards of the workplace.

This sudden concern for accident prevention seems out of the blue, but Sister Mary Carmelyn was actually just doing her patriotic duty. In the midst of World War II, factories increased production to provide supplies. Meanwhile, workplace accidents and injuries also increased. The National Safety Council, with the support of President Roosevelt, launched a national campaign in 1941 to teach ways to avoid accidents in industries, homes, schools, and on the road. Citizens could support the war effort by preventing carelessness that would waste resources or result in injury to much needed workers.

Sister Mary Carmelyn participated in the movement that spread these safety lessons to all areas of life. She promoted the 3 E’s of accident prevention: Education, Engineering, and Enforcement. She also wrote an article for Safety Education Magazine explaining the forgotten “R” in safety, religion. “Knowledge of skills,” Mary Carmelyn wrote, “plus the realization and acceptance of man’s relationship to his fellow men and his Creator, will…direct the knowledge toward…attitudes of safe living.”

Exploring Sister Mary Carmelyn’s records in the Mundelein College Collection provided the opportunity for me to learn more about national events during World War II. Through the archives, I was able to see one fascinating woman’s participation in broader patterns of history.

Caroline blog photoCaroline Lynd is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is working on her Master’s in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. She spends her spare time caring for her pufferfish, interpreting dreams, and watching cheesy movies.

 

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.