Depending upon the weather, WAVES could do their exercises either indoors or out. These WAVES are at the Naval Training School for Advanced Machinist’s Mates in Norman, Oklahoma. They’re working on a field outdoors (note the jumpsuits they’re wearing for their exercise).

But a cold winter day could drive the WAVES indoors. Jeanette Shaffer Alpaugh remembers being at training camp in Cedar Falls working one day inside in the gymnasium.

We were four abreast, one bunch of four after the other. The officer is charge was, somebody came to the door and called her over. She didn’t say “halt.” So we were marching ahead and this person kept talking to her. Now, we didn’t really know this. Anyway, I was in the second group of four,  We come to the end of the gymnasium and she hadn’t said, “halt” or “squad left” or right or anything.  And so there were stall bars at the end of the gymnasium.  I don’t know how this first group of four — I don’t think I would have thought of it, but they started climbing the stall bars (climbing bars on the walls of old gyms).  So here’s four people going up stall bars. We’re the second group of four, we started going up stall bars. She turned around and there were about four groups  (laughs) up on stall bars. I think that — you know, then she says. “Halt!”  It was really funny.

The photograph comes from the National Archives.

On the Town

It wasn’t all hard work for the WAVES. Even officers tasked with training fellow officers, like Franny Prindle Taft, could find time to break away for the occasionally bit of entertainment.

In this picture, Franny (center) is with another WAVE and an military man. They’re at a place called Pine Orchard, in summer of 1943.

Pine Orchard appears to be a country club or a nightclub or restaurant with an outside patio. We’ve done some basic research and can’t find out anything about it, but would love to know more if anyone has any details.

The photograph is courtesy of Franny Prindle Taft.

“Hupping” the Troops

WAVES stayed in dorms on the Smith College campus when in officer training at Northampton, but they ate all of their meals at the Wiggins Tavern in the historic Hotel Northampton. Wiggins was an area landmark and popular with locals, but it became WAVES-central during the war.

Franny Prindle Taft says she was named as company commander when at Smith. That meant it was her job to get the troops the half mile from the campus down Main Street to Wiggins on King Street three times a day to eat – and then back again after the meals for training or to quarters.

I hupped the troops down the hill and then I had to be the last one in line to see that they all went through. And then I had to be the first one out. So I think what I got in the Navy was the ability to eat very fast.

This photograph is courtesy of Franny Prindle Taft.

Love and Marriage

Franny Prindle met her husband-to-be Seth Taft while she was still in college. Seth was the grandson of the former U.S. President William Harding Taft.  They were both officers in the Navy.

Initially, WAVES weren’t allowed to be married. But the Navy discovered that they were losing out on some qualified women (or were forcing them to resign upon marriage). So first women were only allowed to marry outside of the Navy. Then that policy too changed, and WAVES were allowed to marry Navy men.

This photograph is of Franny on her wedding day: June 19, 1943. She and Seth were both Ensigns at the time – he wore his dress whites to the ceremony. She had a half-dozen bridesmaids and changed into her Navy uniform before departing on her honeymoon.

This photograph is courtesy of Franny Prindle Taft.

Special Permission

Navy WAVES were active, regular military. That meant they were expected to wear their uniforms during all public functions. Including weddings.

Franny Prindle, like other WAVES of the era, had to get a special dispensation from the Executive Officer of the Naval Reserve to wear something other than her uniform on her wedding day.  But note the special conditions: no photographs of Prindle outside of her uniform could be released to the press.

Franny Prindle Taft

Meet Franny Prindle Taft. She was a WAVE during World War II and spent her entire Navy career at Smith College in Northampton, training future officers. Taft was in the first full officer class at Smith College in the fall of 1942.

This photo was taken sometime in 1943 while she was on her honeymoon with her husband Seth Taft (the grandson of President William Howard Taft). They traveled up the Hudson River to Canada; both were officers in the Navy and had met while at college (she at Vassar, he at Yale).

 I did work in cancer research at Yale right after I got out.  That’s where I went immediately after graduation … I was making really almost no money, and I heard about the WAVES.   I didn’t want to go into anything that was kind of just an auxiliary with people jumping around in uniforms and not really doing very much.  And (the secretary to the Dean at Vassar College) assured me it was going to much more than that.

Frannie lives in the Cleveland area, where she teaches at the Cleveland Institute of Art.

This photograph is courtesy of Franny Prindle Taft.

New Year’s Day

Yesterday, we mentioned the idea of showing an image a day through 2012. Today we’re starting out with something festive.

During WWII, messages supporting the war effort were found in all sorts of interesting places. Including in fans.

This fan, found in the Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, shows a woman dressed in patriotic clothing (note the braid and “overseas” hat she’s wearing), drawings of ships in battle at sea, and a copy of the Pledge of Allegiance.

This is the fan folded.

New Year’s Resolutions

Here’s the exciting news: the rough edit of the film is done (!!!) and our fabulous composer Andy Forsberg should have our music composed by mid-February.

So what’s up in the New Year for the Homefront Heroines crew?

Champagn and celebration with Navy WAVES at San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel.

We have some resolutions in place.

  • Blog a WAVES picture a day for 2012
  • Submit the film for ITVS and American Documentary Film Fund financing in January. Then, on to American Experience, who we’re hoping will agree that the story of the WAVES is worth a place on PBS. The funding will help us with our other resolutions.
  • License film footage and archival music
  • Find a firm to do color correction
  • And, find a narrator. We love the idea of :

What do you think?

Here’s to a fabulous 2012 and the debut of Homefront Heroines both for the WAVES at the WAVES National Annual Conference and (ideally) at a film festival or on a television screen near you!

What We’re Thankful For, Part Two: Trailblazers

Yesterday we talked about global things we’re thankful for, via President Roosevelt and the Four Freedoms. Today, it’s time for a more personal note.

From Mary M. Ryan. She is somewhere in the sea of women at Hunter College.

As you know, my mother was a WAVE during World War II – and it was her story which inspired this project. And the WAVES were truly trailblazers during the war. This blog is called “Hinges of History” to recognize that contribution. The WAVES were the first women admitted into the service at the same rank and pay as men. And it wasn’t just the service – women during that era generally were paid less than men, under the rationale that they didn’t need the money as much because men were supporting families and women were “only” supporting themselves. So for the Navy to pay women the same amount for the same work was pretty groundbreaking.

WAVE Pay Scale Recruitment Poster, U.S. Navy

But the WAVES weren’t the only ones forging new territory during the war. Inside of the military, the Army WAACs (Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, later Women’s Army Corps) were the first women other than nurses to travel overseas in troops with men.

WACs in Formation, U.S. Army

The WASP (Women’s Air Service Pilots) were the first women to regularly fly planes, mostly ferrying planes in the continental United States from one side of the country to another. They weren’t “in” the service, but had the same risks as male pilots: 38 WASPs died while flying for their country.

WASPs on a Plane's Wing, International Women's Air and Space Museum

Of course, there were also the Women Marines (about 20,000 during World War II) and the SPARs (Coast Guard women, about 12,000 served; their name comes from the Coast Guard motto “Semper Paratus, Always Ready). And we can’t ignore the contributions of the “Rosie the Riveters,” millions of women who entered the workforce during the war to take jobs on assembly lines and in other formerly-male jobs. Before World War II about 12 million women were in the workforce. By the end of the war, that number had swelled to 18 million, a full third of the workforce, and three million of those were “Rosies.”

A "Rosie" working as a Electrician, National Archives.

While historians are divided about the lasting contributions of these women, those who served in both civilian and military jobs believed their work mattered. They were the “hinge”: without their contributions the world wouldn’t have changed in the same way. Without them, our world would be a different place.

First post-WWII WAVES take the oath of office, U.S. Navy.

Our friends at the National Women’s History Museum seem to be on the same wavelength this week. They put together a fabulous video series about women who blazed a trail for those who followed – and those who are dedicated to keeping those histories alive. Part One is embedded below (see Part Two and Part Three on their YouTube channel).

Thank you, this Thanksgiving eve, to the National Women’s History Museum and everyone else who is honoring the trailblazers in women’s history! And, of course, thank you to the trailblazers!

Boot Camp and Beyond

In the spring of 1943 Hunter College in the Bronx, N.Y. (now Lehman College), opened a WAVES training school.  Women were sent here for boot camp where they learned things like Naval history and marching.  They also took placement tests to find out which Navy jobs best suited their skills.

Homefront Heroines is experimenting with a new model of storytelling. We’re creating exhibits geotagged with the location of various locations important to the WAVES, like Hunter College, its buildings and surrounding apartments, with TagWhat –  as discussed in this previous post.  The posts will include video footage, interviews and interesting stories about the WAVES.

Irene Bendnekoff is one of the women we’re featuring:

So what does this mean? Check out the full exhibit here, or download the TagWhat app on your smartphone, head to the Bronx. The exhibit will pop up on your phone – you can see the WAVES’ story while your at a location important to the WAVES!  We love this method of storytelling and would love to know what you think.

Learn about the placement process, training facilities, and hear the stories of many of these WAVES in this Specialty Training exhibit.