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Katharine W. Toll Collection

Identifier: WV 0293

Scope and Contents

The Katharine W. Toll Papers span from 1929 to the 1980s and primarily documents Katharine Toll's service in the WAVES during World War II. Correspondence, newsletters, and V-Mail provide personal insights into the lives of WAVES and the Toll family. Military papers, journals, and handbooks give details on proper conduct, lifestyle, uniform specifications, educational options and requirements, and duties for WAVES. Formats in this collection include correspondence, photographs, personal journals, military papers, handbooks, newsletters and other publications, official reports, and newspapers. There are also several 1940s era posters including U.S. Navy and WAVES recruiting and European promotional skiing posters. Post-war materials reflect Katharine Toll's literary and professional pursuits and research projects. Topics include the Gloucester Fisherman's Museum, ocean conservation, and Dr. Maria Telkes and solar energy.


  • circa 1929-1989 and undated


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is retained by the creators of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information. Please see our Sensitive Materials Statement.

Biographical Note

Katharine Wolcott Toll was born on 6 May 1913 and was raised in Amherst, Massachusetts. She attended Wellesley College and graduated in 1935 with a degree in English. Toll attended the Katherine Gibb Secretarial School in 1936 and also took feature writing courses in Boston. From 1939 to 1942, she worked as a feature staff writer for the Boston Post.

Toll joined the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) in 1942. She attended midshipman's school at Smith College in North Hampton, Massachusetts, as a member of the first graduating class and was appointed to the rank of midshipman on 6 November 1942. Toll reported for active duty in January 1943. Her WAVES duties included helping pass clearance to water craft along the Eastern Seaboard, as well as writing naval reports for the District Historical Office Ship Decommissioning Program and staff narratives. She was also involved with the production of the Shore Salt, the First Naval District Women's Reserve News Monthly. During her time in the service, Toll was advanced to the rank of lieutenant. She was relieved of duty and discharged on 26 June 1946. Two of her brothers were also in the service; Henry Toll served in the air force and Charles Toll served in the army.

After the war Toll was recruited by the United Council of Churches to work with refugees in Germany. She also returned to journalism and displayed a strong interest in oceanographic environmental issues and solar energy. Toll undertook several literary ventures, which included trying to get a book of her brother's illustrated V-Mail published; writing a book about WAVES in service; and research on the World War II civil service of Gloucester, Massachusetts's fisherman. During the 1950s Toll began to work on a research project detailing the life of environmentalist Dr. Maria Telkes, a researcher on solar energy. She also earned a master's degree in Social Work from Boston University in 1958 and founded the Boston Social Services Exchange. Toll died in Massachusetts on September 30, 2007.


8.00 Linear Feet (15 boxes, 1 artifact box, and 1 oversized folder)

Language of Materials


Metadata Rights Declarations

  • License: This record is made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Creative Commons license.


Katharine Wolcott Toll of Amherst, Massachusetts, was a journalist. She served in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) during World War II.

The Katharine W. Toll Papers span from 1929 to the 1980s and primarily documents Katharine Toll's service in the WAVES during World War II.

Arrangement Note

Materials are arranged in 5 series: 1. Personal Papers; 2. WAVES Papers; 3. Military Artifacts; 4. Professional Papers; 5. Toll Family Ephemera

Method of Acquisition

Gift of Marguerite Toll in November 2003, October 2004, and June 2006.

Separated Materials

Separated materials include WWII era posters include 2 U.S. Navy recruiting posters, 4 WAVES recruiting posters, 7 European skiing promotional posters and 3 geopolitical informational posters. Posters are stored in the Women Veteran's Historical Project Oversized Poster drawer.

Offensive Language Statement

The UNC Greensboro University Libraries collects, preserves, and makes accessible unique and historical materials for learning and research. The nature of historical materials is such that some material may represent positions, norms, and values that are offensive and objectionable. These materials represent the opinions and actions of their creators. By providing access to these records in our reading room and through our digital collections, we recognize that archives and rare books can play a vital role in holding those creators accountable and in helping us learn from the past.

Our finding aids and other collection descriptions may occasionally re-use language provided by creators or former holders of the materials, but we strive to place outdated or offensive terminology in context. That said, we recognize that we may not always make the right decision and welcome feedback from all sources so we can learn and adjust our practices. Please contact us at if you encounter problematic language in our finding aids or other collection description. We will review the language and, as appropriate, update it in a way that balances preservation of the original context with our ongoing commitment to describing materials with respectful and inclusive language.

Processing Information

Processed by Jeff Smith and Natalie Edwards, May 2007.

Katharine W. Toll Collection
Jeff Smith and Natalie Edwards. Edited by Brandi Mauldin, March 2017.
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Repository Details

Part of the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives Repository

P.O. Box 26170
320 College Ave.
Greensboro NC 27402-6170 US