Between 1918 and 1922, Agnes P. Medill kept a scrapbook chronicling her work to organize Boys’ and Girls’ Liberty Clubs on behalf of the Delaware College Extension Service. The volume was donated to the University of Delaware Library by her children in 1975. Now, Special Collections and the Center for Digital Collections at the University of Delaware Library have made it possible to view the entire scrapbook online. This is a timely addition to the Library’s Digital Collections, as it honors the 100th anniversaries of both the start of World War I and the founding of the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension Program.
The Newark, Delaware, native was born on September 8, 1887, the youngest of six siblings. In the early years of the 20th century, Agnes worked as a teacher at the Newark Elementary School. During World War I, she embarked on a more adventurous project, organizing patriotic clubs in Delaware’s public schools. As Assistant State Club Leader, Agnes drove throughout the state in her automobile, a Model-T Ford, which she affectionately referred to as “Lizzie.”
Employed by the Delaware College Extension Service and working with agents from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agnes taught students about home economics, emphasizing the growth and preservation of food. Called “Liberty Clubs” because these activities were considered patriotic acts that supported the war effort, the groups took part in gardening, canning, baking, sewing, and raising animals. She facilitated contests where Delaware College awarded prizes to club members for exemplary work.
Agnes filled her scrapbook with photographs, cheekily captioning photos of herself “Yours Truly.” She provided a visual record of her club members and their activities, as well as regional or national Liberty Club gatherings and camp-outs. At these events, the children often sang songs with lyrics about club activities and patriotism, set to familiar tunes.
Agnes also gathered numerous clippings of club news and blank forms the clubs used. She included a card with the club pledge: “I consecrate my Head, my Heart, my Hands and my Health, through Food Preservation and Food Conservation, to help win the world war and world peace.”
In 1923, Agnes married Joseph M. McVey. They lived on S. College Street in Newark and raised three children. She belonged to the First Presbyterian Church, the Newark New Century Club, and the Newark Senior Citizens Center. McVey Elementary School is named after her husband, a former president of the Board of Education of the Christina School District.