From Campus to Cockpit: Duke During World War II

Duke During Wartime: Women and Volunteerism

Cover of the DukEngineer, September 1943.

Cover of the DukEngineer, September 1943.

From the DukEngineer Periodical Collection, 1940-[ongoing].

Women Do Their Part (and Then Some)

During wartime, President Robert L. Flowers allowed the Women’s College to increase admissions, allowing students like Marie L. Foote and Muriel G. Theodorsen to become the first two women to earn engineering degrees from Duke. Other programs--including Economics, Medicine, and Divinity--experienced a jump in female enrollment levels as well.

Women students were not the only ones stepping up to help their country: Ellen Huckabee, Duke alumna and Women’s College administrator, served both actively and in the Naval Reserves during World War II. Ms. Huckabee spent more than twenty years advocating for women’s education at Duke.

Photograph of women making bandages, 1944.

Photograph of women making bandages, 1944.


The College Organization for General Service (C.O.G.S.), created by women students at Duke, contributed to the war effort through activities like preparing bandages, organizing fundraisers for charity, and attending social events for soldiers. Duke also hosted a division of the A.W.V.S. (American Women’s Volunteer Services), which held similar events.

Students, faculty, and administrators took part in events like the performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore, which brought together members of the Duke and Durham communities to raise money for the Red Cross. Scrap rallies and war bond campaigns also bridged the gap between the town and campus as everyone pitched in to help the United States support its armed forces.

Some materials and descriptions may include offensive content. More info