Bernice Forest Diary, 1916 - 1917


While attending Oregon Agricultural College (OAC) (1914 - 1918), Marion Bernice Forest documented her and her fellow students’ lives in her diary. Writing between October 12, 1916 and September 21, 1917, she presents a small town, slice-of-life perspective on issues that were just beginning to be felt in early twentieth-century Corvallis. She graduated with a degree in home economics and worked for the Extension Service in Wyoming beginning in the mid-1920s. Her sister, Harriet Forest Moore, also attended Oregon Agricultural College and was the the first archivist for Oregon State University.

Interspersed among Bernice’s recordings of daily events, she reveals her attitudes about local, national, and international concerns. She grapples with everything from romance and overwork to the U.S. involvement in World War I, reflecting her heartfelt fears about classmates being sent off to war. At one point, she is explicit about her biased views of African Americans and others, expressing the racism especially common in Oregon at this time (as Gregory Nokes and others have documented).

The uncanny similarities between the author’s world and our own--with its mounting globalization, rampant xenophobia, and simmering threats of war--are matched only by her funny, of-an-era primness and her deadpan take on what it’s like to be a working student with an active social life.

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