American Women's Voluntary Services

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American Women's Voluntary Services
American Women's Voluntary Services.jpg
AWVS members in various AWVS uniforms, 1942
Formation 1940
Legal status Service
Region served
United States

American Women's Voluntary Services (AWVS) was the largest American women's service organization in the United States during World War II (WWII).[1] 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.[2]

Alice Throckmorton McLean founded AWVS in January 1940,[3] 23 months before the United States entered the war, basing it upon the British Women's Voluntary Services,[4] 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. Despite these concerns, AWVS had about 18,000 members by the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.[3] Eventually over 325,000 women were trained by AWVS.[4] Doris Ryer Nixon founded the California chapter in August 1941 and became AWVS's national vice president.[5] Nixon is the mother of Lewis Nixon III, an Army paratrooper officer during World War II who is featured prominently in Band of Brothers.[6][7][8]

American Women's Voluntary Service.JPG

AWVS also encountered resistance because some men did not want women working. The group also sponsored units in African, Chinese, and Hispanic American parts of the United States.[3][4] This also led to lampooning by the media. By 1944, despite hundreds of thousands of volunteers and large efforts to help win the war, AWVS was accused of being lazy, and the leaders decided to disband the organization at the end of the war. Also, they were formed for the specific purpose of supporting the war, which had been won.[3]

Actresses who were AWVS members included Joan Crawford,[9] Hattie McDaniel,[10] Betty White and Lillian Randolph.[11] AMVS inspired other volunteer service groups, such as "Laguna Cottages for Seniors".[5]

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Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Partners in Winning the War: American Women in WWII". National Women's History Museum. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  2. ^ "CIVILIAN DEFENSE: The Ladies!". TIME. 26 Jan 1942. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d Weatherford, Doris (2010). American Women During WWII. New York: Taylor & Francis. pp. 21–23. ISBN 0-203-87066-2. 
  4. ^ a b c Yellin, Emily (2004). Our Mothers' War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II. New York: Free Press. pp. 172, 209–210. ISBN 0-7432-4516-4. 
  5. ^ a b Redmond, Michael (20 Jun 2009). "Laguna Cottages History of Senior Living Housing". Santa Barbara Independent. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  6. ^ "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 ... 
  7. ^ "Social Notes," New York Times 1922-03-23 (announcing birth) and "Died," New York Times, 1922-05-23 (announcing death).
  8. ^ "Drama: Band of Brothers". BBC. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  9. ^ Quirk, Lawrence J. (2002). Joan Crawford: the essential biography. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press. p. 124. ISBN 0-8131-2254-6. 
  10. ^ "Network and Local Radio Listings". The Sunday Sun. 4 Jan 1942. Retrieved 8 Jan 2011. 
  11. ^ Rea, E.B. (8 May 1943). "Encores and Echoes". Baltimore Afro-American. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 

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