CPS Unit Number 122-01
Unit ID: 1
Title: Winnebago State Hospital
Operating agency: MCC
Opened: 12 1943
Closed: 3 1946
CPS Unit No. 122, a Mental Hospital unit located at Winnebago State Hospital in Winnebago, Wisconsin operated by Mennonite Central Committee, opened in December 1943 and closed in July 1946. Men worked as ward attendants.
Winnebago State Hospital, an acute care psychiatric hospital with five hundred patients, was located in Winnebago, Wisconsin. The hospital administration, desperate for help, had interviewed prisoners in a Minnesota federal prison who were guilty of violating Selective Service regulations to see if they might be paroled for hospital service. When they learned that CPS men might be available, the hospital leadership sought a unit.
Directors: Reuben Epp
Fourteen men and two alternates were chosen for the unit by one of the hospital doctors who visited and selected the men from CPS Camp No. 31 in Camino, California. Fifteen men staffed the unit, eight of whom were married.
The women also worked in the hospital.
Men in Mennonite camps and units, when entering CPS reported religious affiliation with various Mennonite denominational groupings.
On average they had completed 10.45 years of education when entering CPS, with fifteen percent having completed 1-3 years of college. Another seven percent had either graduated from college or completed some graduate education. Fifty-nine percent reported their occupations on entry into CPS as farming or other agriculture work. Twenty-three percent when entering CPS reported occupations in technical and professional work or business management, sales and public administration (Sibley and Jacob p. 171-72)
Unit personnel worked as ward attendants in the hospital. As was the case for COs in CPS, they received a maintenance allowance but no wages.
The work proved very difficult, and not all the men continued. Some dropped out, a few finding employment in the community until they were assigned to another CPS camp or unit.
Married women often became an integral part of mental hospital units, and were not subject to Selective Service regulations with regard to work. “They were free agents and could come and go as they pleased. They were entitled to the same employment conditions as regular employees of the hospital. And they often brought with them an array of special skills ranging from medicine, the behavioral sciences, and nursing to teaching and secretarial services. However, because the most serious staff shortages were on the wards, they were usually assigned to attendant duty.” (Sareyan p. 90)
The 1946 report from the hospital to Selective Service expressed high appreciation for the men and women who served in the unit.
For more information on this and other Mennonite mental hospital and training school units, see Melvin Gingerich, Service for Peace: A History of Mennonite Civilian Public Service. Akron, PA: Mennonite Central Committee printed by Herald Press, Scottdale, PA 1949, Chapter XVI pp. 213-251.
For more information on women COs see Rachel Waltner Goossen, Women Against the Good War: Conscientious Objection and Gender on the American Home Front, 1941-47. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1997.
See Alex Sareyan, The Turning Point: How Persons of Conscience Brought About Major Change in the Care of America’s Mentally Ill. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1994.
See also Mulford Q. Sibley and Philip E. Jacob, Conscription of Conscience: The American State and the Conscientious Objector, 1940-47. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1952.
Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Camp periodicals database.
For more in depth treatment of mental health and training school units, see Steven J. Taylor, Acts of Conscience: World War II, Mental Institutions, and Religious Objectors. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2009.