The WAVES

Mildred H. McAfee

Mildred H. McAfee

The WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) served in the United States Naval Reserve during World War II. In July 1942, the Naval Reserve was authorized to accept women as commissioned officers and at the enlisted level, effective until six months after the war, which freed up many men for ship duty. Mildred H. McAfee, on leave as president of Wellesley College, became the first director of the WAVES. The notion of women serving in the Navy was not widely supported in Congress or by the Navy, but it was supported by the Navy’s Women’s Advisory Council, Margaret Chung, and Eleanor Roosevelt, the First Lady of the United States. The WAVES were primarily white, but eventually included 72 black women. Serving at 900 stations in the United States and the territory of Hawaii, many of the women experienced workplace hostility, but almost all of them looked upon their service as beneficial.

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