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2nd Lt. Alice C. Thompson, L-201903, Photograph, 1944

Context

2nd Lt. Alice C. Thompson, L-201903, is shown with a WAC (Women's Army Corps) Honor Platoon that received Good Conduct Ribbons as one of the features of WAC Day, Saturday, February 19, 1944. The ribbons were awarded to enlisted personnel who had completed at least one year of exemplary behavior.

In May 1941, Rep. Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts introduced a bill to establish a women's corps in the U.S. Army. The bill included goals of securing a salary and benefits comparable to their male counterparts. Gaining support after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the bill became law on May 15, 1942. The law established the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC), which had official status and salary, but few of the benefits afforded to male soldiers. In July 1943, after thousands of women had enlisted, the Army changed the name to the Women's Army Corps (WAC) and granted members full Army benefits. More than 150,000 American women served in the Women's Army Corps (WAC) during World War II. In 1980, 16,000 women who had joined as WAACs were granted veteran's benefits. Despite initial public resistance, the WAAC/WAC were successful in taking over clerical, radio, electrical, and air-traffic jobs.

Citation: United States Army Signal Corps. 2nd Lt. Alice C. Thompson, L-201903. Newport News, Va. : U.S. Army Signal Corps, Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation, 1944. Prints & Photographs, Special Collections, Library of Virginia.

Standards

Social Studies: USII.7, USII.8 USII.9, CE.9 CE.14, WHII.9 VUS.11, VUS.12
English: 4.7, 5.7

Suggested Questions

Up for Debate: The WAC is not always mentioned in textbook accounts of America during World War II. Do you think that textbook publishers should make a more concerted effort to portray women in the military?

In Her Shoes: Write a letter home to your parents or a friend as if you were a member of the WAAC who was not receiving the full benefits granted to your male counterparts.

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