The Women’s Army Corps (WAC) was the women’s branch of the United States Army. It was created as an auxiliary unit, the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) on 15 May 1942 by Public Law 554, and converted to an active duty status in the Army of the United States as the WAC on 1 July 1943. Its first director was Oveta Culp Hobby, a prominent woman in Texas society. The WAC was disbanded in 1978, and all units were integrated with male units.
Rosie the Riveter is a cultural icon of World War II, representing the women who worked in factories and shipyards during World War II, many of whom produced munitions and war supplies. These women sometimes took entirely new jobs replacing the male workers who joined the military. Rosie the Riveter is used as a symbol of American feminism and women’s economic advantage. Similar images of women war workers appeared in other countries such as Britain and Australia. The idea of Rosie the Riveter originated in a song written in 1942 by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb. Images of women workers were widespread in the media as government posters, and commercial advertising was heavily used by the government to encourage women to volunteer for wartime service in factories.
According to the Encyclopedia of American Economic History, “Rosie the Riveter” inspired a social movement that increased the number of working American women from 12 million to 20 million by 1944, a 57% increase from 1940. By 1944 only 1.7 million unmarried men between the ages of 20 and 34 worked in the defense industry, while 4.1 million unmarried women between those ages did so. Although the image of “Rosie the Riveter” reflected the industrial work of welders and riveters during World War II, the majority of working women filled non-factory positions in every sector of the economy. What unified the experiences of these women was that they proved to themselves (and the country) that they could do a “man’s job” and could do it well. In 1942, just between the months of January and July, the estimates of the proportion of jobs that would be “acceptable” for women was raised by employers from 29 to 85%. African American women were some of those most affected by the need for women workers. It has been said that it was the process of whites working alongside blacks during the time that encouraged a breaking down of social barriers and a healthy recognition of diversity.
United States (U.S.) Cadet Nurse Corps (CNC) was authorized by the U.S. Congress and signed into law as a nondiscriminatory program in July 1943. Its purpose was to help alleviate the nursing shortage that existed during World War II. The United States Public Health Service (USPHS) was named the supervisory agency; it was answerable to the surgeon general of the United States, Thomas Parran, Jr. The USPHS established a division to administer the CNC program and Parran appointed Lucile Petry, a registered nurse (RN), as its director.
The program was open to all women between the ages of 17 and 35 who were in good health and had graduated from an accredited high school. The recruiting target was the high-school graduate but college women were also recruited. Few media sources lacked advertising for the CNC. All state nursing schools in the U.S. were eligible to participate in the program; they were, however, required to be accredited by the accrediting agency in their state and be connected with a hospital that had been approved by the American College of Surgeons. The participating schools of nursing were required to compress the traditional nursing program of 36 months into 30 months and were obligated to provide the students with the clinical experiences of medicine, surgery, pediatrics, and obstetrics.
The cadets came from locations across the nation and from all backgrounds. The CNC was the largest of the federal nurse-training programs; it allowed young women to serve their country in uniform and without discrimination. Of the 1,300 schools of nursing in the country, 1,125 participated in the program. The CNC operated from 1943 until 1948; during this period 179,294 student nurses enrolled in the program and 124,065 of them graduated from participating nursing schools. The American Hospital Association credited the cadet student nurses with helping to prevent the collapse of civilian nursing in the U.S. during the war.
The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) (also Women’s Army Service Pilots or Women’s Auxiliary Service Pilots) was a civilian women pilots’ organization, whose members were United States federal civil service employees. Members of WASP became trained pilots who tested aircraft, ferried aircraft and trained other pilots. Their purpose was to free male pilots for combat roles during World War II. Despite various members of the armed forces being involved in the creation of the program, the WASP and its members had no military standing.
WASP was preceded by the Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) and the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS). Both were organized separately in September 1942. They were pioneering organizations of civilian women pilots, who were attached to the United States Army Air Forces to fly military aircraft during World War II. On August 5, 1943, the WFTD and WAFS merged to create the WASP organization.
The WASP arrangement with the US Army Air Forces ended on December 20, 1944. During its period of operation, each member’s service had freed a male pilot for military combat or other duties. They flew over 60 million miles; transported every type of military aircraft; towed targets for live anti-aircraft gun practice; simulated strafing missions and transported cargo. Thirty-eight WASP members lost their lives and one disappeared while on a ferry mission, her fate still unknown as of 2019. In 1977, for their World War II service, the members were granted veteran status, and in 2009 awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.