Elizabeth Reynard initially struggled in the Navy. It wasn’t that she wasn’t qualified – it was more that her creative impulses clashed often with the regimentation of military life. She was also unhappy living away from her family and friends in New York.
When the Navy decided to open a training school for women in New York in late 1942, Reynard was appointed to help develop the education program. By all accounts, her work was a huge success. She came up with the idea of bringing models of ships, sample guns and Link trainers and other equipment the women might encounter on the job for their boot camp training at Hunter College.
This newspaper clipping comes from the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies. It is about a commendation Reynard received for her service with the Navy.
Elizabeth Reynard is credited for being the woman who came up with the name for the WAVES. According to Virginia Gildersleeve, in her book Many a Good Crusade, the Navy wanted something that was “nautical, suitable, fool-proof, and attractive.” Reynard took up the challenge, as she wrote to Gildersleeve:
I played with those two letters [w and v] and the idea of the sea and finally came up with ‘Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service’ — W.A.V.E.S. I figure the word ‘Emergency’ will comfort the older admirals, because it implies that we’re only a temporary crisis and won’t be around for keeps.
This photograph of Reynard comes from the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies.
Virginia Gildersleeve, Dean of Barnard College in New York, also asked one of her close personal friends to go to Washington and help work within the Navy develop a woman’s program. That woman was Elizabeth Reynard.
Reynard was a an English professor and graduate of Barnard College. She was a strange choice to lobby for a woman’s service because Reynard was by all accounts highly artistic and an unconventional thinker – not perhaps the best civilian woman to lobby for women’s military service. She moved to Washington in early 1942 and would eventually become one of the first women to join the WAVES.
This photograph comes from the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies.