The Pittsburgh Press (May 15, 1943)
I DARE SAY —
Their world, their war
By Florence Fisher Parry
I do not feel qualified to write on this subject, for I have not been confronted with the problem. Yet so many girls and mothers have asked that I tell them “what to do” that I shall try, however lamely, to set down here my own feelings about our daughters enlisting in the WAACs, the WAVES, and the other branches of the Armed Forces which, within a little year, have swept thousands of our young women into enlistments.
I may as well confess: I hope my own daughter will not join up in any of these splendid branches of the service. Or, indeed, in any work that will take her far from me again. I know I am selfish and craven in my quite old-fashioned qualms. I confess my cowardice openly because I feel that there are many mothers who share my own misgivings. We rationalize our selfishness by making ourselves believe that our daughters are “better off” or “more useful” where they are, and in their present occupations.
But by the same token, I believe that these same mothers would be quick to acknowledge, with me, that were our daughters to profess a genuine desire and intention to join up with any or these branches of the armed service, we would not withhold our consent and blessing.
On this point, I can in all conscience hold firm. I am committed to the belief that this war and this world from now on are theirs, not ours, theirs to live absolutely. We cannot stand between; we must give ground.
Let them decide
For cannot we see, if we have eyes at all, that the pace and tempo of life have surged beyond us? Its urgency is for younger hearts and bodies than our own. We cannot longer keep up with our children. Time has moved up too fast.
In my day, we were caught up with the great issue of equal rights for men and women. The first great suffrage parade of women was held in 1915 or ’16, and because I wanted to step right down off the curb and join in, my family considered me a radical.
That was long ago, you say? But May 15, 1942, was not long ago, was it? Yet when the President on that date authorized the setting up of the WAAC, with Col. Oveta Culp Hobby to command it, confess did it not seem to us mothers that it was a kind of Eleanorish, White-House-ish step to take?
I admit I thought so. A year ago. One year. Yet since, our whole concept of its importance has gone through a revolutionary change. I say revolutionary. For the first time in U.S. military history, women have been given rank and recognition in the Army and Navy and Marines. It is in its way as much a step forward into the ranks of sex equality as was the passage of the 19th Amendment.
In one year, the first of the great military units of women has established itself as INDISPENSABLE to our conduct of the war. The call has gone out for enlistments, still more enlistments to meet a quota which a year ago would have seemed fantastic.
First in service
Shall we mothers lift our hands, then, vainly to stop the tide? I think not. Just as I should have been “allowed” to step off the curb into that first great parade of women down 5th Avenue, New York, just so, my daughter must be “allowed” to make her own choice, cost what it may to me.
WAACs, WAVES, SPARS, MARINES, RED CROSS, or a defense job or some other WAR-work, that is not my choice but hers. New worlds, new banners, new places for women: that is as it should be, must be. It is ridiculous to withhold our encouragement and consent because of fancied dangers and “exposures.” Consent is an outworn word, and danger is the adjective for all that is ahead of us!
The proof of the WAAC’s magnificent accomplishment lies in the appeal of the U.S. Army for more recruits! And reading and hearing of its great growth and work. I marvel that in one short year it could have worn down the last prejudice against American WOMEN in U.S. uniform, and brought a blush of shame to the cheeks of those of us who were so quick originally to deprecate their “place” in the ranks of our Army and Navy.
Hail the WAACs! Gangway for the WAVES! And their sister organizations, all releasing to the war manpower so needed for the victory now on its breathless way!