Scope and Contents
Dates of Materials
- Majority of material found within 1942-1945
- United States. Naval Reserve. Women's Reserve. (Organization)
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
Biographical / Historical
The creation of the WAVES represented a fundamental change that was occurring in American society as the war effort increased. Women were moving from the home into the work force and gaining increasing independence. In WWI, 11,275 women served in the Navy, mainly in secretarial and office positions, but they were not recognized nor was their service publicized, and no formal program existed for their training. In 1942, for the first time women were in uniform, earning the same pay, doing the same work, following the same rules, and receiving the same respect as Navy men. The publicity surrounding the WAVES focused on their independence, intelligence and equality with their male counterparts. However, the naval officers took care to remind everyone of their gender when designing their uniforms. Pants were vetoed in favor of skirts, fitted jackets, and stack heeled shoes that served to emphasize the femininity of the recruits. Women came to the WAVES from all sections of society, bringing a wide variety of skills and experience. Originally, black women were banned from the WAVES, creating a great deal of friction at some of the training schools. The President lifted the ban in 1944 and later that year the first black female officers graduated from the Smith College training school.
By the end of the war over 83,000 women were serving in the Navy, a number significantly over the original estimate of 11,000. They filled positions such as parachute riggers, pharmacist's mates, instrument flying trainers, store keepers, radio dispatchers, clerks, mechanics, lab technicians, mail carriers, decoders, and navigators. Most of the officers were restricted to the rank of lieutenant with the notable exception of Captain Mildred McAfee (the president of Wellesley College) who was the director the WAVES. Soon after peace was declared in 1945, the WAVES and SPARS programs were dismantled and the women who had been in the Navy returned to their homes or civilian jobs.
4.75 linear feet (10 containers)
Language of Materials
- I. General
- II. Publications
- III. Photographs
- IV. Audio-Visual
Immediate Source of Acquisition
- Finding aid to WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Services Unit) files
- Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
- Mariah Leavitt and Kate Baker; Ellice Amanna
- 2018, 2019
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
- 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (https://github.com/harvard-library/archivesspace-preprocessor)
- 2005-09-23: manosca7 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
- 2018-11-26: Finding aid updated with new box numbers, barcodes, locations
- 2019-12-10: Boxes added, barcodes, finding aid updated
Part of the Smith College Archives Repository
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063