Center for Archival Collections
August 2005: Volume 24, Number 2
Long May She Wave!
This issue of the Archival Chronicle Gallery features images from the scrapbook Josephine Suter Kronfield (MMS 364) kept during her 1942-1945 service in the WAVES during World War II.
Although women had served ably during World War I, mostly as clerical staff, legislation passed after the war had prohibited women from joining the military. With the coming of the Second World War, it was clear that women's skills were needed again. In July 1942, President Roosevelt signed the law allowing an expanding role for women in the Navy. Still, public response was uncertain. Even their name, WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), suggested that their status was temporary. However, recruiting began in earnest and a year later some 27,000 women were serving in the Navy. By war's end, more than 8,000 female officers and over 75,000 enlisted WAVES had served their country well; this workforce made up only about 2 1/2 percent of the Navy's total strength during that conflict.
The WAVES served in a far wider range of occupations than they had in the past. While traditional clerical jobs made up the largest proportion of women's duties, thousands performed previously atypical duties in the aviation community, Judge Advocate General Corps, medical professions, communications, intelligence, science and technology.
Josephine Suter of Toledo was among the early volunteers. She kept a scrapbook (MMS 364) of her experiences in the service which give us a glimpse of the women's role in the defense of the nation. Highlights are shown here.
Josephine Martha Suter, 1942
Jo Suter as a civilian in the early days of World War II. She worked in the cost department of Electric Auto-Lite and had entertained as a hostess at the USO Center.
Nora, Byron, and Jo
Jo's brother Byron had enlisted at the start of the war and his service was probably important in inspiring Jo to volunteer for the WAVES.
Newspapers were full of articles about local men and women who were serving in the armed forces.
Jo and Byron pose together in uniform on the porch of their parents' home.
Newsclipping, ca. March 1943
News reports like this were intended to reassure Americans that military service would not make their daughters masculine. The rosy picture of boot camp encouraged more women to enlist. During World War II many college campuses became training centers for the military. WAVES were initiated into service at Iowa State.
Marian Wright of Toledo demonstrates her welding skills.
"Rosie the Riveter" was a popular song of the era that celebrated women's contribution to war production. Besides these women learning metalworking in the WAVES, thousands of women worked in private sector heavy industries. Their experiences paved the way for women to join the workforce after the war.
Arrival at Banana River, Florida
"That's Me - Just a Boot, February 1943"
Josephine Forrestal, wife of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, asked fashion designer Mainbocher to create a smart, classically-styled uniform that would compliment every figure. Here, Jo Suter wears her regulation blues.
Barracks, Cedar Falls, Iowa
"Inspection of Clothing and Bedding: When enlisted women are in schools or quartered in barracks, commanding officers shall cause their clothing and bedding to be inspected by division or other officers periodically, taking care that the inspections are so conducted as not to be unnecessarily irksome to the women. They shall encourage the enlisted women to keep their uniforms clean and neat, and do everything possible to facilitate the proper care, cleaning, fitting, and preservation of the uniforms and equipment." --from the Uniform Regulations, Women's Reserve, United States Naval Reserve, 1943
"End of the Chow Line, Jacksonville, Florida, 9-23-43"
"Frances Stotlemyer and Martina Watson"
Hair coverings were a safety necessity for women working with machinery. Called "snoods," these coverings were quickly adapted to women's everyday fashions.
Jacksonville, Florida - 9-26-43 - Assembly and Repair Shop"
"Outside the Hanger -
At the time Jo Suter earned her rating, fewer than 100 WAVES had qualified as aviation metalsmiths.
Bernadine Luthye, Jo Suter, Barbara McCue
Jo and some friends clown backstage during an amateur show put on by the troops.
"Back in Civvies"
For a feature article in the Toledo Blade, October 1, 1945, Jo demonstrates that she has not lost her feminine skills, despite having earned a rating of metalsmith, second class in the WAVES.
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