Campus Location

Abilene Campus

Date of Award

8-1993

Document Type

Thesis

Department

History

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Committee Chair

Fred A. Bailey

Second Committee Member

John L. Robinson

Third Committee Member

Vernon L. Williams

Abstract

Abilene city fathers perceived the onset of World War II as a potential answer to both economic and population growth goals. Citizens cooperated to secure an Army post, and in February 1941, troops commenced training at Camp Barkeley. With more than 50,000 men eventually serving at the camp, soldiers spent both leisure hours and dollars in the city. Abilenians, eager to protect their virtuous culture, recognized the need for wholesome entertainment for hundreds of unattached young men. Abilene leaders sponsored a women's volunteer association, the Bluebonnet Brigade. Bluebonnets provided companionship for the soldiers while helping the community maintain its moral complexion. An analysis of the Bluebonnet Brigade's organization, composition, and activities demonstrates both one city's ability to deal with war's cultural disruption and a model of women's activism on the home front.

An extensive search in secondary and primary materials produced no significant research on the Bluebonnet Brigade and their war-time contribution to Abilene. The Bluebonnet Brigade Collection, including institutional records, provided information heretofore unavailable. The records contain application, membership, and activities materials, as well as correspondence, and other miscellaneous documents.

The application and membership records provided data for the Bluebonnet Database. The project examined seventy-one variables for each of the 1,374 Brigade applicants. The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences used a custom written program to produce summary and comparative statistics. Statistics analyzed within the thesis' text originate from program runs from this Database.

Oral interviews were conducted with Brigade organizers, former Bluebonnets, ex-Barkely soldiers, and others with knowledge of the Bluebonnet Brigade. Questionnaires were developed and sent to former Bluebonnet members. Responses and comments from both the interviews and questionnaires added considerable knowledge concerning the Brigade.

While the installation of Camp Berkely gave Abilene the opportunity to contribute to the war effort, it also caused concern for the community's carefully nurtured values. The Bluebonnet Brigade, consisting of carefully chosen young women, helped the city fulfill its goal as host and at the same time protected its moral ambiance, providing a fitting association between town and camp.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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