I have been fortunate to have many choices in my life as a young woman. Whether or not to go to college, get married, have children. Who to vote for, rent or buy, two doors or four doors? I am faced with choices every day and I am grateful for each one because so many women before me did not have those choices. If I decided today that I wanted to join the military, I could walk into my local recruiting office and be welcomed. And I could do more than clerical work.
To the women of my grandmother’s generation it was not so simple. When World War II began they could volunteer their services, their knowledge, their skills and time to supporting the war effort, and after the attack on Pearl Harbor, six thousand women did. They were expected to do clerical work, since it was assumed that women would be better at that than the men would. Soon it became clear that women could do a lot more than typing and filing. By mid-1942, women were allowed to enlist in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. They began taking over more and more responsibilities that had previously been held by men, but for less pay and lower ranks. By late 1943, the Auxiliary was dropped and women finally received the same pay and rank as the male soldiers who had done the same jobs.
These skirt and stocking clad soldiers were the first female American soldiers. To learn more about these groundbreaking women, join Mary Rasa from the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum when she comes to the Rising Sun Branch on March 20 at 7 pm. She will come in period uniform with other artifacts from the time to tell us about the daily lives of the first women to join the military. Call 410-658-4025 or click here to register.
Were any of your female family members active in the war effort? Share your family memories with us!