American Women's Voluntary Services (AWVS) was the largest American women's service organization in the United States during World War II. AWVS provided women volunteers who provided support services to help the nation during the war such as message delivery, ambulance driving, selling war bonds, emergency kitchens, cycle corps drivers, dog-sled teamsters, aircraft spotters, navigation, aerial photography, fighting fires, truck driving, and canteen workers. Some of its work overlapped with the Office of Civilian Defense and the American Red Cross.
Alice Throckmorton McLean founded AWVS in January 1940, 23 months before the United States entered the war, basing it upon the British Women's Voluntary Services, in order to help prepare the nation for the war. Most of the founders were wealthy internationalist women, and its headquarters was in New York City, making America's isolationists suspicious of AWVS. Others saw the organization as being alarmist. AWVS also encountered resistance because some men did not want women working. Despite these concerns, AWVS had about 18,000 members by the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Eventually over 325,000 women were trained by AWVS. Doris Ryer Nixon founded the California chapter in August 1941 and became AWVS's national vice president.
The group sponsored units in African, Chinese, and Hispanic American parts of the United States, which led to lampooning by the news media. By 1944, despite hundreds of thousands of volunteers and large efforts to help win the war, AWVS was accused of being lazy; its leaders decided to disband the organization at the end of the war—their specific purpose was to support the war effort.
Actresses who were AWVS members included Joan Crawford, Hattie McDaniel, Betty White and Lillian Randolph. AWVS inspired other volunteer service groups, such as "Laguna Cottages for Seniors".
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- "Civilian Defense: The Ladies!". Time. 26 Jan 1942. Archived from the original on October 14, 2010. Retrieved 8 May 2011.
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- Redmond, Michael (20 Jun 2009). "Laguna Cottages History of Senior Living Housing". Santa Barbara Independent. Archived from the original on 23 May 2010. Retrieved 8 May 2011.
- "Blanche Nixon to Make Debut". Los Angeles Times. December 18, 1941. Retrieved 2010-03-22.
Blanche Nixon, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Stanhope Nixon of ... Cold Spring Road, Montecito, a freshman at Stanford, will be formally to society at the San ...
- "Social Notes," The New York Times 1922-03-23 (announcing birth) and "Died," The New York Times, 1922-05-23 (announcing death).
- Quirk, Lawrence J. (2002). Joan Crawford: the essential biography. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press. p. 124. ISBN 0-8131-2254-6.
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- Bill Guarnere site, who served with Lewis Nixon, discussion about AWVS
- History of British Women's Voluntary Service
- Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, American Women's Voluntary Services badge
- University of North Carolina at Greensboro, American Women's Voluntary Services garrison cap, c. 1942
- University of North Carolina at Greensboro, American Women's Voluntary Services legionnaire kepi, c. 1942