EIU's Academy of Lifelong Learning offers public a glimpse into 'Mollie's War'
Eastern Illinois University’s (EIU) Academy of Lifelong Learning will host a presentation on March 11 detailing the experiences of one of the first women to serve in World War II as a member of the Women’s Army Corps (WACs).
Named Mollie’s War, after Mollie Weinstein Schaffer, the program draws from detailed experiences revealed in letters the war veteran sent home, such as her basic training in Florida in 1943 and the unforgettable moment when she first saw the Statue of Liberty upon her return to the U.S. in 1945.
EIU's Academy of Lifelong Learning focuses on offering a wide variety of low-cost learning opportunities for adults in the area through short courses and events that “enable participants to enjoy learning in a relaxed environment.”
“We have history, local interest, science -- we just had a class on fracking,” Project Coordinator Marita Metzke recently told the East Central Reporter. “We have some technology courses, so it is very broad. It connects (the) community and county with educational opportunities that they might not have otherwise.”
Metzke said Mollie’s War falls into the academy’s history category.
“The way that we became aware of this opportunity was last year we offered a very similar event with Amelia Earhart, (which) was again a first-person portrayal out of Illinois Humanities,” she said.
Illinois Humanities offers such programs throughout the state for a small fee, with the rest being covered by the organization hosting the event, Metzke explained. The speakers or impersonators for the programs typically have degrees in history and sometimes theater.
“This particular person is interesting because the speaker, the impersonator, is actually the daughter of Mollie Weinstein Schaffer,” Metzke said. “She is taking her letters her mother wrote and experiences that her mother talked to her about, and (is) creating a woman who was early to serve in the Women’s Army Corps.”
Mollie’s daughter, Cyndee Schaffer, captured many of her mother's experiences in a book, also titled Mollie’s War. It vividly portrays the lives of women such as Mollie and her fellow WACs who were stationed in England, Normandy and Paris before and after D-Day.
As part of the U.S. occupation, the women also traveled to Frankfurt, Germany, where they saw the devastation of the country firsthand before returning to the U.S.
“It is really a first-person impersonation,” Metzke said. “It is super cool; it is really fun. Sometimes schools have these people dress up in period costume and talk to students. So, this is kind of like a grown-up version of that.”
Cyndee Schaffer shares her mother’s story by speaking to groups at a variety of venues, including libraries, senior living facilities and Rotary clubs.
The presentation aims to encourage participants to reflect on the crucial and diverse roles woman have played in the military.
Admission to Mollie’s War costs $14 for Academy of Lifelong Learning members and $17 for non-members.
The presentation will be held from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at Coles County Airport's Lockard Room, 410 Airport Road in Mattoon.