A.G.T.I.: Daily Life, Challenges, and Responses

For the most part, life for the students of the Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute carried on during wartime as it had before the start of the Great War. Classes continued to be offered on many of the same subjects, and the curriculum stressed the importance of both literary and technical knowledge. The students actively engaged in academic, creative, and athletic endeavors, giving life and spirit to the small campus of A.G.T.I. The school even experienced some degree of growth during the period, adding several buildings and increasing the student population, while still remaining quite small. In the 1915-1916 session, the student body consisted of 501 students.1 By the 1918-19 session, that number had increased to 916 students, almost doubling in just a few short years.2

In many ways, the small size and insular nature of the school and community spared the girls of A.G.T.I. some of the hardships and harsh truths of wartime. However, while the impact on A.G.T.I.’s student body was not as extensive as that of the other COPLAC institutions, the school was by no means untouched by the war. The Great War affected A.G.T.I. principally in the area of institutional operations. The Board of Trustees minutes from the period are useful in helping to understand the war’s impact on A.G.T.I.’s finances and labor population. This record mentions troubles adapting to the high cost of living as early as 1914, an issue that reappears later in the minutes during the 1916-1917 session. The crops of A.G.T.I. apparently suffered during this time from a combination of poor weather conditions and the boll weevil, something that had the potential to upset the supply of food to A.G.T.I.’s students.3 One quote highlights the this plight quite succinctly:

This has been a hard year on the farm and dairy. Nearly everything in the way of crops was destroyed by the July rains. The winter freezes killed all the oats and vegetables. The spring season was late, and the continued growth since has retarded the growth of all vegetation.”4

Despite these hardships, the students of A.G.T.I. contributed to the war effort in a number of meaningful ways. One of the most significant of these contributions was their establishment of a chapter of the Red Cross during the 1917-18 session. The Catalog from the 1918-19 session indicates that the student body was fully committed to this endeavor, voluntarily offering up the twenty-five cents required annually for dues. A.G.T.I. faculty provided Red Cross coursework to the students; in particular, students were instructed “in the making of articles for hospital service.” The contributions for the following session (1918-19) are summed up quite succinctly in the Catalog from that year and are as follows:

During the session 1918-19, this Unit contributed a large quantity of children’s garments for the destitute children of France and Belgium, twenty five dollars in cash to be used in completing children’s outfits, made 250 story books for soldiers in hospitals, 1200 gauze bandages, 200 comfort kits, 200 housewives, etc.5

Such altruistic efforts were often carried out by student organizations at A.G.T.I. For example, the 1919 Technala details how the Castalian Literary Society took up Red Cross work and purchased a Liberty Bond “which [they] gave to the War Relief Fund.” In keeping with their literary origins, however, the club also adopted the study of  war poetry, so as not “to abandon their war heroes.” These efforts on the part of A.G.T.I.’s students appear to have been quite common and motivated by a sincere desire to ameliorate the plight of the war-torn nations of Europe.6 In total, “A.G.T.I. contributed $3098.75 in cash to the War Activities fund, and supported seven French orphans for 12 months.”

Similar pro-war efforts were adopted in the classroom and at the institutional level. The war period witnessed several changes in and additions to A.G.T.I.’s curriculum that reflected the social and political climates brought about by the Great War. For example, sociology coursework was offered focusing on “the problems of women and children as those problems are affected by the changed conditions of the war.” These examinations of the social and economic conditions of those affected by the war must have humanized the distant war experience for the students of A.G.T.I. A.G.T.I.’s curriculum was dedicated to keeping its students aware of the war effort, including the pro-war efforts made by the Red Cross. In keeping with the school’s technical focus, A.G.T.I. provided students with knowledge of “the demands being made upon women in industry and in other phases of industry hitherto closed to women.” If the war had continued, the graduates of A.G.T.I. may have filled such positions, lending their valuable technical skill sets to further the war effort.8

A.G.T.I. also participated in the crucial food conservation efforts urged by the U.S. government. By preserving valuable food items and limiting waste, the Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute was part of a broader effort to channel important resources to the soldiers in Europe. The school imparted useful knowledge of food and food conservation to all of its students who were not majoring in Home Economics, a program in which students would have already been exposed to such information.One interesting document that has survived from the period is a Food Conservation Bulletin produced by A.G.T.I. in the late months of 1917. This resource provided readers tips on saving food and reducing waste, as well as a number of recipes that utilized fewer ingredients. Some of the items to be conserved included sugar, wheat, and meat.10 A digitized version of this publication can be found here.

Click the thumbnails below to access images of A.G.T.I. during the Great War:


Notes

1. Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog, 1915-16, volume 37 (Montevallo, Ala.: Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, 1916), 8-16, 20-25, 75. Annie Crawford Milner Archives and Special Collections, Carmichael Library, University of Montevallo, Montevallo, Alabama.

2. Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog, 1918-19, volume 49 (Montevallo, Ala.: Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, 1919), 70. Annie Crawford Milner Archives and Special Collections, Carmichael Library, University of Montevallo, Montevallo, Alabama.

3. University of Montevallo Trustees Minutes, Volume 1-3, May 16, 1895-May 26, 1922 (transcribed), 147.

4.University of Montevallo Trustees Minutes, Volume 1-3, May 16, 1895-May 26, 1922 (transcribed), 157.

5. A.G.T.I., Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog, 1918-19, 16-17.

6. Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, 1919 Technala, volume 12 (Montevallo, Ala.: Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, 1919), 31. Annie Crawford Milner Archives and Special Collections, Carmichael Library, University of Montevallo, Montevallo, Alabama.

7. A.G.T.I., Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog, 1918-19, 17.

8. Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog, 1917-18, volume 45 (Montevallo, Ala.: Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, 1918), 17. Annie Crawford Milner Archives and Special Collections, Carmichael Library, University of Montevallo, Montevallo, Alabama.

9. A.G.T.I., Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog, 1917-18, 17.

10. Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Food Conservation Bulletin, volume 42 (Montevallo, Ala.: Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, 1917). Annie Crawford Milner Archives and Special Collections, Carmichael Library, University of Montevallo, Montevallo, Alabama.

Image Gallery Citations

1. “Senior Tennis,” photograph, from Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, 1914 Technala, volume 8 (Montevallo, Ala.: Senior Class, 1914). Annie Crawford Milner Archives and Special Collections, Carmichael Library, University of Montevallo, Montevallo, Alabama.

2. “Senior-Sophomore Game,” photograph, from Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, 1914 Technala, volume 8 (Montevallo, Ala.: Senior Class, 1914). Annie Crawford Milner Archives and Special Collections, Carmichael Library, University of Montevallo, Montevallo, Alabama.

3.  ″Work of Montevallo Red Cross,” The Montevallo Advertiser, December 22, 1917.

4. “Peace Day,” photographs, from Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, 1919 Technala, volume 12 (Montevallo, Ala.: Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, 1919), 23. Annie Crawford Milner Archives and Special Collections, Carmichael Library, University of Montevallo, Montevallo, Alabama.

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