Monday, July 30, marks the 76th anniversary of the creation of the U.S. Navy’s WAVES, the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service. During World War I women were accepted into the Navy’s reserve force due to an ambiguity of the law which did not specify that a reservist must be a “man.” The idea was supported by Navy Secretary Daniels who perceived that a woman performing a clerical job normally assigned to a male sailor would free that man for sea duty. In that war almost 12,000 women would serve, most as yeomen (f), radio operators (f) and in a few other ratings. The Navy, unlike many civilian employers, paid women and men the same salary for the same job.
After the Armistice women sailors were released from the service. Although a small number of women continued to serve in the Nurse Corps, a separate unit created in 1908; no other women would serve in the Navy until after the United States entered World War II. In 1941, Representative Edith Nourse Rogers introduced a bill creating a Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps, the WAACs. This legislation became law in 1942. Members of the WAACs served in uniform but were not treated equally with men as members of the Army in matters of pay and benefits. In 1943 under a new law WAACs were incorporated into the Army and the name was changed to the Women’s Army Corps.
In late 1941 Representative Rogers approached Rear Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the future Chief of Naval