Memorial Day brought me an angry call form my usually upbeat and cheerful mother, who expressed outrage that the Memorial day celebrations honoring America's war dead and war heroes rarely if ever mentions the women who served and in some cases died serving their country. We hear about Rosie the Rivetter, but not about Nancy the Navy WAVE.
Well, my mom spent two years during World War II as one of 80,000 Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), mostly based at the Naval Station in New York City.
Like the rest of the women in this group, she wore a Navy uniform, did the jobs that men had done previously--everything from clerical jobs to aircraft mechanic--and like them she got shortchanged when it came to post-war benefits. Where my Marine father qualified for a home loan, a year's unemployment benefits, and college tuition, my mother got a small lump sum payment and that was it--at least until the American Legion made the government even things out for women...and for African-American vets.
Now she and the other women who gave up college or job to volunteer for the war effort in World War II are being ignored again as politicians praise the men who fought and gave their lives in the war against fascism.
And it's not just Navy women (who incidentally had to be 21 and single to be allowed to join in those days. The Army had its own even larger women's unit in World War II, the WACs, for Women's Army Corps, which ultimately had 150,000 members. (Women had been in the Navy in World War I, but had then been banished for 23 years, until the WAVES were established in 1942. For the Army, 1942 was the first time women had ever been permitted to wear a uniform.
Especially today, when women are being sent into battle and are dying along with the men in a pointless imperial war in the Middle East, it's time for women to get the recognition they deserve for their role in the Second World War.
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