For the duration… World War II Home Front (Lawrence, MA)

The first Independence Day parade of the war, 1942.

This year, 2020, is the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. The Lawrence Public Library had intended to display posters, images, and ephemera that had been collected over the decades in memory of the period both here in the City and with Lawrencians in service.

The archivist writing this post is a “boomer”, and born after the war was over. But I still felt the weight of the war in my childhood. My contemporaries were still fighting WWII battles in the playground. My mother still collected fat in the kitchen. My sister, some years older than I am, remembers:

“Every Saturday mother gave me $1.00 to buy 10 savings stamps.

I pasted them in a book that promised $25.00. Only after a few 

years did the $25.00 appear due to accrued interest. The money

from these books helped me with college. 

We conducted WAR each recess on the playground. My family 

went to the movies every Saturday evening. The newsreels at 

the movies is how we saw the war”.

I did not grow up in Lawrence, but the country was sharing the burden down to the oldest and the youngest.  I will be displaying a number of Lawrence Public Library resources as I bring this story together. My hope is that all of those who have memories of the war at home and abroad that we can add to our story.  Due to the Covid-19 virus, I have not had the opportunity to go through the local newspaper to enhance the story.

  • Being at war
Lawrence Post Office responding to the war, 1943

The citizens of Lawrence enthusiastically contributed to a variety of volunteer programs. They submitted to government-managed rationing and price controls. The feeling was these programs contributed to the general good and was “for the duration…”

  • The draft and enlistment
A page from the Cronin Postoffice scrapbook

The first peacetime draft was enacted in 1940 by Congress. Local Draft Boards of community leaders determined how to fill them. There was little resistance. By 1943 there was severe labor shortage. Within weeks public library staff were clipping articles from newspapers about men and women who were serving. Years later the completed files (8,000 of them) were found in 17 boxes in the library stacks. The names in those files plus a list of gold star (deceased) military can be accessed here.

One of the more than 8,000 files the library has concerning WWII veterans
This dog tag comes from a collection donated to the Library by the Essick family
  • Civil Defense

State guards replaced the National Guards. The Civilian Air Patrol enrolled civilian spotters in air reconnaissance, search-and-rescue, and transport.     Blackouts were enforced. Blackout curtains were placed over windows.

  • Labor

Local industries were in great need of labor to keep the war effort on track.


From the outset of the war, it was clear that enormous quantities of airplanes, tanks, warships, rifles and other armaments would be essential to beating America’s aggressors. U.S. workers played a vital role in the production of such war-related materials. Many of these workers were women. Indeed, with tens of thousands of American men joining the armed forces and heading into training and into battle, women began securing jobs as welders, electricians and riveters in defense plants. Until that time, such positions had been strictly for men only.

  • Women
Women’s Air Force pilot paper doll

Women joined the workforce. United Service Organization (USO) provided morale and entertainment to uniformed military personnel. Women Air Force service Pilots (WASP) flew war plans from factories to air bases. Recently the Lawrence Public Library Special Collections acquired a remarkable collection of paper dolls, owned and played with, during World War II by Phyllis Tyler. The pilot doll above is a part of this collection and documents the change of the roll of women in the work force during World War II.

USO Girls: Jean Kochman in the middle back
  • Victory Gardens
“George Carter, Jr., son of George “Jud”Carter of the Solvent Plant, is helping to take care of Daddy’s Victory Garden”. (from Arlington Mills: News and Views)

Victory gardens were set up all over Lawrence.

During World War II, as an alternative to rationing, Americans planted “victory gardens,” in which they grew their own food. By 1945, some 20 million such gardens were in use and accounted for about 40 percent of all vegetables consumed in the U.S.

“Make carrot plantings once a month up to the middle of July and sufficient carrots will be available for fresh eating and storing for the winter. Carrots may be kept just by burying them in the sand in your cellar.” (from Arlington Mills: News and Views)

  • Recycling

Fat drippings were collected to make soap. Aluminum foil from gum wrappers and rubber bands were formed into balls by children and then contributed to the war effort.

  • Keeping spirits up

War bond drives, entertaining the troops, parades, preparing packages for soldiers, music, etc

  • Propaganda: posters, film, rallies

Posters were displayed in many locations including public libraries. Lawrence is very lucky to have librarians who saved the ones displayed in the building. If allowed the archivist will return to put a number of these posters on display again. Topics included: war bond drives, victory gardens, loose lips, rationing, conservation, and the goals of the war.


Movies were shown in local theaters with very patriotic themes: A walk in the sun,

  • Volunteer activities:

Red Cross USO, MCA, YWCA, YMHA, National Catholic Community Service, and the National Jewish Welfare Board were extremely active across the United States and very much in Lawrence.

This is a page from a USO scrapbook.  You can see names and addresses of local organizations that contributed to the war effort.
Lawrence Jr USO entertaining the Troops
  • Rationing

Local ration boards were run by volunteers who were issuing ration books. Items like sugar were distributed evenly based on the number of people in the family. Fuel oil and gasoline were rationed to those who could show a need.


When the troops return home when the war is over the City begins to remember.

Ella Findeisen, Suffragette

This photograph is coming to you via courtesy of the National Woman’s Party Photograph Collection.  Ella is the fourth woman from the left.

Ella Findeisen was born in Germany in 1882, and emigrated to the United States with her parents around 1900. They lived in Lawrence, Massachusetts where Ella worked as a weaver in a woolen mill and as a bookkeeper for a milk dealer. She also became active in the labor movement, almost certainly participating in the “Bread and Roses” strike of 1912, and serving on the Central Committee of the Industrial Workers of the World. It is not known when she became a suffrage activist as well.

In 1917, Findeisen and other suffragists began demonstrating in front of the White House for the right to vote. Findeisen was charged for picketing at the White House on November 10, 1917. She had to choose between a fine or imprisonment, and ultimately chose to go to prison for the cause. Findeisen was sent to the Occoquan Workhouse for 30 days where she was held with her compatriots under deplorable conditions. Findeisen not only received a “prison pin” for her sacrifice in the name of suffrage, but her efforts and imprisonment in the Occoquan Workhouse helped spread sympathy for the suffrage cause.

Ella never married and remained active with the Massachusetts chapter of the National Woman’s Party throughout the 1930’s. Documentation of her life after 1930 is sparse. She worked for the family business, Findeisen Dairy as a bookkeeper. Ella died at her home, 11 Colby Street, Lawrence, Massachusetts, on August 29, 1944.  Her obituary does not mention her early activism.

First Church of Christ Scientist (Lawrence, MA)


The First Church of Christ Scientist was organized in Lawrence in 1896.  The church shown here was built not long after at 3 Green Street (between Broadway and Franklin Street).  It is now the Iglesia Bautista Biblica.

Religious Society of Friends (Lawrence, MA)


The Religious Society of Friends came together in Lawrence in 1886.  The Avon Street church was built in 1896.

Freewill Baptist Church (Lawrence, MA)


The Freewill Baptist congregation was formed in April of 1846 and met in boarding houses for some time.  The term freewill comes from the denomination’s belief in “Free will, free communion  and free salvation”.   The first building (shown above) was dedicated April 21, 1857.  It was located at the corner of Common Street and Pemberton Way.  The congregation was very involved in the anti-slavery movement.  Frederick Douglass spoke more than once in the church.  In 1899 a mission church was built in South Lawrence called the Wood Memorial Chapel named after Mrs. Mary A. Wood whose bequest made the the church possible.

In 1921 The Freewill Baptist Church and the Second Baptist Church united to become Calvary Baptist Church.  In 1924 the building below was dedicated.


Calvary became First Calvary when the First Baptist Church at the corner of Haverhill and Amesbury Street was destroyed by fire.  The congregation joined with Calvary in 1934.  The final Lawrence building was also destroyed by fire in 1988.  The congregation rebuilt on Mass. Avenue in North Andover.

First United Methodist Episcopal Church (Lawrence, MA)


The First Methodist Episcopal Church was dedicated February 20, 1948.  The building still stands at the corner of Hampshire and Haverhill Streets.  There were several ME churches in Lawrence in the early years.  In 1911 all the congregations combined in the United Methodist Church on Haverhill Street just east of Lawrence Street, next door to the north branch of the Lawrence Public Library.  That same year the Presbyterians took over the building.  Other denominations have found a home in the building including the present day Ebenezer Christian Church.


First Unitarian Church (Lawrence, MA)



The Unitarian Church (also called the Unitarian Society) was organized November 15, 1847.  The first meetings were held in the Odd Fellows Hall on Hampshire Street and later in a chapel created for that purpose.  The wooden structure at the southeast corner of Haverhill and Jackson streets was dedicated in May of 1850.  The church was torn down in 1916 and was replaced by a much smaller structure.  Ultimately the Unitarian and Universalist Churches merged.  This congregation moved to North Andover.

Robert Frost Cartoon Display (Lawrence, MA)


Scan 2

This cartoon display was a gift of Richard McCarthy to the Lawrence Public Library in 2016.

Freedom Train (Lawrence, MA)

freedom train2.jpg

There were two national Freedom Trains that toured the United States: the 1947–49 special exhibit Freedom Train and the 1975-76 American Freedom Train that celebrated the United States Bicentennial. Each train was composed of seven cars and decorated in red, white and blue and its own itinerary and route around the 48 contiguous states, stopping to display Americana and related historical artifacts.

The 1940s Freedom Train exhibit was integrated — black and white viewers were allowed to mingle freely. When town officials in Birmingham, Alabama, and Memphis, Tennessee, refused to allow blacks and whites to see the exhibits at the same time, the Freedom Train skipped the planned visits, amid significant controversy.

The first Freedom Train was proposed in April 1946 by Attorney General Tom C. Clark, who believed that Americans had begun taking the principles of liberty for granted in the post-war years. The idea was adopted by a coalition that included Paramount Pictures and the Advertising Council, which had just changed its name from “War Advertising Council”.

The Freedom Train arrived in Lawrence, Massachusetts, at the train station at the corner of Essex Street and Broadway, October 21, 1947 and remained behind the Post Office during its stay.  Lawrence was the 26th of 300 cities visited by the freedom Train.  At 8:30 in the morning Mayor James P. Meehan and the Freedom Train Committee were given a preview.  After that the train was visited by many citizens from the greater Lawrence area.

Finnocchiaro Bridge (Lawrence, MA)


The Finnocchiaro Bridge is located on East Haverhill Street spanning the Spicket River.  It is named after Antonio Finnocchiaro who served in the military during World War I.