activism civil rights Woman's College

The W.C. Informer: Read, Think, and Act!

“This is a personal letter to every Woman’s College student. The Informer has talked to you before about action: it isn’t enough to read and think. We must act. You have written you congressmen. You have spoken as a citizen. Here is your chance to get other citizens to act with you …

“Soon you yourself will be able to vote. And you will be able to influence your family to vote, to exercise their duty as citizens in a democracy. Do you know how to go about exercising that privilege? By distributing this information, you will acquaint yourself as well as others with the procedure of voting. It has been said that the youth of today is the last home for a peaceful world today and tomorrow. We have been talking too much and sitting in our ivory tower too long. Here is something concrete and immediate that all of us can tackle.”

Political cartoon in issue #4 of the W.C. Informer

This statement — typed in all capital letters — was distributed by the students who produced the W.C. Informer in the Spring 1946 semester. The W.C. Informer, a newsletter published between March and May of 1946, was created and distributed by the Woman’s College chapter of the Committee for North Carolina, a progressive organization affiliated with the Southern Conference for Human Welfare.

Founded in 1938, the Southern Conference for Human Welfare (SCHW) was an organization based in Birmingham, Alabama that “tried to bring long-overdue New Deal-inspired reforms to the South” (for more, see the SCHW entry in the Encyclopedia of Alabama). Meetings of the SCHW included both white and African American Southerners and focused largely on issues such as labor relations, education, and civil and constitutional rights. Many of its stances, however, led to accusations of communism and communist sympathies, and, in 1948, the organization disbanded due to internal schisms over whether to support Progressive Party candidate Henry Wallace or Democratic nominee Harry S. Truman in the presidential election.

The W.C. Informer published only 11 issues of its newsletter, but these issues highlight many of the topics of concern to progressives in the South during this time period. The second issue highlights the organization’s chief political concerns: “fair employment practices, extension of Social Security, wider education – higher standards, equal suffrage rights for all citizens, a statewide health program, higher minimum wages, better living standards, federal and state aid to agriculture.”

Issue #5 includes a piece about an African American military veteran in Columbia, Tennessee, who was assaulted by “a white man over an insult to the veteran’s mother” and then arrested. The piece tells the story of the aftermath of “an armed mob of 50 to 75 whites [who] stormed the jail on a lynching party.” The piece concludes as many of the W.C. Informer pieces do — with a call to action. “Citizens of Woman’s College! Can we afford to let this happen in America? The tragedy in Tennessee must not be shrugged off! Civil rights of American citizens have been violated! Write the Attorney General demanding an investigation.”

While the issues were not necessarily published anonymously (it was made clear that the publication was affiliated with the W.C. chapter of the Committee for North Carolina), it was not until issue #6 that the names of the editors were included in the publication. This issue notes that they had “been asked to publish the named of the editors of the W.C.I. formerly revealed in the Cary [referring to The Carolinian student newspaper].” Those listed as editors include “Nancy Siff, Marjean Perry, Lyn Brown, Gracia Broadbooks, Edda Mae Trostler, [and] Nina van Dam.” Most were members of the Class of 1947 or the Class of 1948.

Masthead of issue #8, featuring the tagline “Read, think and act!”

The recurring tagline for most of the W.C. Informer issues is “Read, Think, and Act!” This is a mindset that the student activists who produced the newsletters tried to encourage. Issue #6 stated, “The main purpose of the W.C.I. is to present the facts which would arouse student interest and activity in world affairs, whether the specific opinions of the editors are agreed with or not.” Through their publication of the W.C. Informer, these students actively worked to engage their classmates in discussion of these important world-wide topics.

***The 11 issues of the W.C. Informer have all been scanned and are available online.***
***The deadline for registration to vote in North Carolina in the November 2016 election is October 14th. For more information on how to register to vote in North Carolina, please see the State Board of Elections website.***

By Erin Lawrimore

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