One Ohio Music Educator's Contribution to World War II: Joan A. Lamb

By Sullivan, Jill M. PhD | Contributions to Music Education, July 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

One Ohio Music Educator's Contribution to World War II: Joan A. Lamb


Sullivan, Jill M. PhD, Contributions to Music Education


This article documents the contributions of an Ohio music educator who served in the military during WWII, Joan A. Lamb. Primary and secondary sources revealed that she was born and educated in Ohio, and taught public school music there prior to enlisting. She held an assortment of music positions in the Women's Army Corps (WAC)-all of which were significant firsts for women. She performed in an all-female military band, graduated from the Army Music School, directed the 400th WAC Band, started an African American WAC Band, and performed in the Armed Forces Radio Orchestra under the direction of Meredith Wilson. After the war she had a thirty-year career in education teaching instrumental music, and serving as an administrator in the Los Angeles public schools.

Researchers acknowledge that there are gaps in music history that need to be filled; one of these gaps is the untold story of women and their contributions to music education and music history in general. In a 1997 article, Jere Humphreys reported that, "two leading music education history books provide inequitable sex and regional representations of historic music education activities in the United States.1 In the same article, Humphreys added, "Organizations and professional leaders tend to leave voluminous readily accessible written records, whereas more ordinary people, including most music teachers, do not . . . . Clearly, the top-down approach to history contributed to the inequitable representation of women."2 In 1992, George Heller and Bruce Wilson, in their "Historical Research" chapter in the Handbook of Research on Music Teaching and Learning wrote, "Gaps remain in the present story of people, places, and ideas associated with music teaching and learning. New interpretations of old subjects are needed, especially to discover the roles of ethnic and racial populations and women."3 Ten years later, a similar conclusion was drawn by Roberta Lamb, Lori-Anne Dolloff, and Sondra Howe in their chapter on "Feminism, Feminist Research, and Gender Research in Music Education" in The New Handbook of Research on Music Teaching and Learning. They concluded, "Much research still desperately needs to be done in order to add all of the facts that could be discovered about women in music and music education."4 It is the aim of this article to help fill this gap in knowledge by documenting the contribution made by one woman music educator while serving in the military during World War II.

Women Needed to Serve

On December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attacked and destroyed a substantial portion of the American Pacific Fleet docked at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the United States declared war on Japan. Immediately, German Chancellor Adolf Hitler declared war on the U.S., and America became engaged in the global conflict.5 Consequently, military leaders knew they would need more personnel to help win the war. Because of this, women were needed to assume new roles in society, with the idea of keeping the home front economy, industry, and military thriving. In 1943, Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War, called upon the women of America to join the labor force, "The War Department must fully utilize, immediately and effectively, the largest and potentially the finest single source of labor available today-the vast reserve of woman power."6

With the understanding that women would take over on the home front, in the fall of 1942 U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed a proclamation that decreed "that the draft would be the sole source of military manpower."7 Therefore, with men being drafted into the military to fight a war abroad, six million women entered America's workforce during World War II, garnering the nickname "Rosies" after a fictional character, Rosie the Riveter, who first appeared in song lyrics composed by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb in 1942.8 The Four Vagabonds, a male quartet, performed the song that popularized this icon. …

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