[June 12th marks the 75th anniversary of the passage of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, an important step toward a more inclusive America on multiple levels. So this week I’ll AmericanStudy that Act and other histories of women in war, leading up to a Guest Post from one of the best scholars of those histories and issues!]
groundbreaking organizations that together helped turn the tide of history.
The Women’s Army Corps
(WAC): Without question the more than 150,000 women who served in the Women’s
Army Corps (which began as the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps
in 1942 and then was converted to the WAC a year later) were the single most
significant step toward the postwar Women’s Armed Services Integration Act.
Many of these women were deployed to the European and Pacific theaters, serving
in crucial roles in the war’s difficult final years. Moreover, this was a truly
multicultural community, including the all-African American 6888th
Central Postal Directory Battalion, the more than 200
Puerto Rican women who served in the WAC, and the 50 Japanese
and Chinese American women recruited as translators. The WAC thus served as
a powerful and influential argument for the integration of the armed forces in
terms of both gender and race.
Corps Women’s Reserve (MCWR): The Army might have featured the war’s most
prominent roles for women, but the other branches of the armed forces likewise created
their own influential such communities. Created in 1943, the Marine Corps Women’s
Reserve was defined by some of the most inspiring women in American history,
such as Minnie
Spotted-Wolf, a Blackfoot woman from Montana who became the first Native
American woman in the Marines when she enlisted. Or Lucille
McClarren, the stenographer whose March 1943 enlistment made her the
organization’s first private. Or Ruth
Cheney Streeter, the clothing designer and mother of four who in January
1943 was commissioned as major and made director of the MCWR for the duration
of the war.
The Women Airforce Service
Pilots (WASPs): Even the women who served in more fully civilian roles did
so in courageous and groundbreaking ways, as reflected by the more than 1000
pilots who became the first women to fly American military aircraft. Organized
into the Women’s
Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) and the Women’s
Flying Training Detachment (WFTD), these skilled pilots helped move vital aircraft
throughout the United States; and in this still-early era of flight they did so
at considerable risk, as 38
WASPs died in accidents in the course of the war. Like all the women who
served in World War 2, these pilots didn’t just help change the culture of the
American military; they contributed to ongoing changes in every layer of
American society that would only accelerate in the postwar decades.
do you think? Other stories or histories you’d highlight?