A few months ago I found this image of a World War Two recruiting poster. I can't recall now where I found it but being interested in things telegraphic I stuck it in my picture file. What caught my eye was the semi-automatic bug key, the slightly furrowed brow and the look of mild concentration on that pretty face.
Recently my curiosity about the WAVES got the better of me and a couple mouse clicks later I landed at the NHHC or Naval History and Heritage Command website. You've got to love the military and their incessant use of acronyms. Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service began in August of 1942 when Mildred McAfee was sworn in as a Naval Reserve Lieutenant Commander. McAfee was the first female commissioned officer in the history of the U.S. Navy and was the first director of the WAVES program.
From the start the WAVES was an official division of the Navy whose members held the same rank and pay grades as their male counterparts. The vast majority of WAVES performed clerical duties although women quickly proved adept in aviation maintenance, the medical professions, communications and other non-combat support roles. The World War Two era brought about dramatic changes in the military and these pioneering women deserve great credit for stepping up to serve their country in what was up until then an exclusively male institution.
The Navy recruiting poster pictured above was made from an oil on canvas painting by John Philip Falter. Following is a short note about the painting from the NHHC website:
"This woman operates a telegraph key. The Navy ran a school for radio personnel beginning in 1942. Research suggests that John Falter used a Naval photograph taken during March 1943 of Virginia L. Scott as the basis for this image. She is sending a message from the code room of the Radio School at Madison, Wisconsin. The Navy used this painting to print 40,000 posters, 71,000 window cards and 57,000 car cards in June of 1943."
More details : NHHC WAVES recruiting posters page