The Hotel Stilwell Heritage and Educational Foundation will host “Kansans Remember World War II,” a presentation and discussion by Rachel Waltner Goossen, at 2 p.m. Saturday in the historic hotel’s ballroom.

The Hotel Stilwell Heritage and Educational Foundation will host “Kansans Remember World War II,” a presentation and discussion by Rachel Waltner Goossen, at 2 p.m. Saturday in the historic hotel’s ballroom.

The program, open free to the entire community, reflects Goossen’s long-standing interest in American culture, war and individuals’ experiences, as expressed through oral history reviews.

Goossen is a Washburn University professor specializing in 20th century U.S. and women’s history. She has served as a member of the Publications Committee for the Kansas Historical Society and as District 3 coordinator for National History Day - Kansas.

In an email interview, Goossen said that the oral histories of 1940s-era Kansas residents used in the program were collected by Washburn University history students during several semesters in 2006 and again in 2008.

“This was part of  a course that I taught titled ‘Remembering World War II’,” she  wrote. “In each course, every enrolled student conducted three interviews with civilians or former military personnel who experienced World War II either abroad in service assignments or here on the home front. We developed a written guide with oral history questions that students were able to adapt to fit the interview, depending on the kinds of experiences the person had had.”

Over the course of the project, the students accumulated more than 120 taped oral history reviews, mostly from northeastern Kansas, especially the Topeka area, but also some persons from other communities in Kansas and beyond.

“We received a Washburn University grant to transcribe these tapes, so that we could make the materials available to the persons interviewed, as well as to their families, to Washburn students and to researchers,” Goossen said.

She said that her own interest in World War II derives from her background as an American historian, specializing in peace history and in women’s history on the American home front during the 1940s.

“Some years ago, when I was a graduate student at the University of Kansas, I conducted a major study on the history of American conscientious objectors during World War II who took part in the wartime Civilian Public Service program,” Goossen said. “I focused especially on the experiences of women and families in that historic program, and later published a book titled ‘Women Against the Good War: Conscientious Objection and Gender on the American Home Front, 1941-1947’.”

A native of Newton who has resided in the Topeka area for many years, she has also written “Brick and Mortar: A History of Newton, Kansas,” as well as several works on Mennonite history.

She holds degrees in history from Bethel College, the University of California, Santa Barbara, and KU.

“Kansans Remember  World War II” is part of the Kansas Humanities Council’s Kansas Speakers Bureau, which features presentations and discussions about Kansas and what it means to be a Kansan over time and across generations.

Goossen’s program fits this theme perfectly.

“The oral histories featured in the program are intergenerational stories of college students learning from elders about their lives during the 1940s,” she said. “While each interview is different, there is something special about each Kansan’s World War II experience. Even those who think they have nothing to share find they contribute something new to the story of World War II.”

A reception will follow her presentation.