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This Day In History: A Bill Establishing The Women’s Army Corps Became Law

May 15, 2017

This day in history, May 15, 1942, a bill establishing the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps became law.

The Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) organization was originally designed by numerous Army bureaus coordinated by Lt. Col. Gilman C. Mudgett, the first WAAC Pre-Planner. However, nearly all of his plans were discarded or modified before going into operation because he expected a corps of only 11,000 women.

Without the support of the War Department, Representative Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts – the first congresswoman from New England – introduced a bill on May 28, 1941, providing for a women’s army auxiliary corps where women serve in noncombat roles.

While her husband  John J. Rogers, served as a congressman, Edith Rogers was active as a volunteer for the Red Cross, the Women’s Overseas League and military hospitals. Later, she was appointed to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs as chairwoman in the 80th and 83rd Congresses.

On May 15, 1942, the bill to create a Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps was passed after being held up for months by the Bureau of the Budget. When the United States entered World War II shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the bill was resurrected.

The WAAC gained official status and salary, and thousands of women enlisted as a result.

In July 1942, “auxiliary” was dropped from the organizations name, and the Women’s Army Corps, or WAC, received full Army benefits.

Women’s jobs ranged from clerks to radio operators, electricians to air traffic controllers, and even bakers.

The WAC was disbanded as a branch in 1978, and all female units were integrated with male units. It wouldn’t be until 1980 that the 16,000 women who had joined the earlier WAAC would receive veterans’ benefits.