Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History



First Advisor

Evelyn Stone


This study investigates the impact of the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) on the decision to pass the U.S. Women's Armed Services Integration Act in June 1948. In addition, it examines who these women were, why they joined the WAVES, the roles they played during the war, what they gained from their experiences and how their services influenced the decision to pass the Integration Act. The performance and professionalism demonstrated by the WAVES during the war had a dramatic impact on the integration of women into the U.S. armed services. Shortly after the outbreak of war in December 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Public Law 689 authorizing the temporary use of women in the armed services. Public Law 689 created a women's reserve in the Navy that enabled women to serve for the duration of the war, plus six months. It was expected that after the war was over women would return to the traditional roles of housewife and mother or jobs acceptable for women. At the conclusion of the war many women did return to their traditional roles, but their performance could not be ignored. The WAVES had demonstrated the need to maintain a core of experienced women in the Navy in the event of another national emergency. In response to the WAVES services during the war, Congress passed the Integration Act, authorizing women to join the military on a full time or reserve basis.



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