Skip to main content
Related Content
World War II: Women in the Navy

Following World War I, Yeoman (F) were disestablished and women only served as Navy Nurses.  The necessity of women serving during World War II had long since been apparent.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Public Law 689 on July 30, 1942, establishing Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES).  In early August, Mildred McAfee became the Director of the WAVES and was sworn in as a Naval Reserve Lieutenant Commander, becomng the first female commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy. 

Unlike the Yeoman (F) in World War I, the range of duties for women was greatly expanded to the aviation community, Judge Advocate General Corps, medical professions, communications, intelligence, science, and technology.   Quickly working, recruitmet was undertaken, training establishments had to be set up, and an administration structure had to be designed and uniforms created.  

On February 26, 1944, the Navy Nurse Corps was designated full military rank by Public Law 238.  Sue D. Dauser, the Director of the Navy Nuse Corps received a full commission in the rank of Captain, thereby becoming the first female in the Navy to hold that rank.   In Decemer 1944, Lieutenant Junior Grade Harriet Ida Pickens and Ensign Francis Willis were commissioned as the first African American officers after graduating from the Naval Reserve Midshipmen's School (WR) at Northampton, Massachusetts. 

Other Resources:

NMUSN Women in the U.S. Navy Pamphlet

NHHC Women in the U.S. Navy Focus

Image:  80-G-K-13755:  Three WAVES sightseeing in Washington D.C., circa 1943-45.   Official U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.