Women have served the United States in all of its wars—from Molly Pitcher during the American Revolution to Mary Owens who dressed as a man to fight in the Civil War to female spies in World War I—but only recently have been granted mostly equal treatment in the armed forces. One of the groups that paved the way for the current status of women in the military was the WAC. As we’ll learn in future posts, service women from other branches of the military also played a large role in shifting the perception of women in the armed forces.
Formed in May 1942, the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (later changed to Women’s Army Corps), was a direct way for women to engage in the effort to defeat the Axis powers. Ultimately, over 140,000 women served in the WAC during World War II. Stenographers, arms maintenance, switchboard operators, mechanics, and drivers were some of the many Army support roles women took on. Serving both stateside and overseas, these individuals proved to be both capable and effective. General Douglas MacArthur referred to the women in the WAC as “my best soldiers” as the WAC became an essential part of the war effort.
While the WAC did not lead directly to the break-throughs for women that some had expected, some of the current success of women in the armed forces can be traced to this pioneering group.
As of 2014, women comprised a full 14 percent of the active duty Army and continue to break barriers. For further reading about women in the Army, visit the website here.
Keep an eye on our website for posts about women in the other branches of the armed forces in the coming weeks.
You can also watch Colleen Sawyer’s excellent presentation on female spies in World War I at our Virtual Coffee & Conversation linked here and below.
Morden, Bettie J. (2000). The Women’s Army Corps, 1945-1978. United States Army Center of Military History.
Treadwell, Mattie E. (1954). The Women’s Army Corps. United States Army in World War II (1991 ed.).