Mildred H. McAfee

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LCDR McAfee while director of the WAVES

Mildred Helen McAfee Horton (May 12, 1900 – September 2, 1994) was an American academic who served during World War II as first director of the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) in the United States Navy. She was the first woman commissioned in the U.S. Naval Reserve and the first woman to receive the Navy Distinguished Service Medal.

In addition to her distinguished military service, Mildred H. McAfee was also the 7th president of Wellesley College. She was a U.S. delegate to the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and was co-chair of President John F. Kennedy's Women's Committee for Civil Rights.

As a pioneer for women's roles in the mid 20th Century, Mildred H. McAfee was the first woman to serve on the boards of New York Life Insurance, the New York Public Library, and RCA. She was the first woman chair of the Board of Trustees of the University of New Hampshire. As all of her work was compelled by her faith, she was first woman president of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and the first woman vice-president of the Federal Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches.

Early life[edit]

Mildred H. McAfee was born in Parkville, Missouri, the daughter of the Rev. Cleland Boyd McAfee and Harriet Brown. Her Presbyterian family emphasized and helped to nurture a strong faith and a high expectation of achievement.[1] She graduated from Vassar College and received her master's degree in sociology from the University of Chicago. She was dean of women at Centre College and then dean of women at Oberlin College. In 1936 she became president of Wellesley College at the age of 36, making her one of the country's youngest college presidents.[2]

McAfee is unique in the history of women leaders in the church, since she was already a young adult before the Presbyterian Church began ordaining women as elders. In fact, she had already served as vice-president of the National Council of Churches for a number of years before the first woman was ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1956.[3] Unlike her female contemporaries, McAfee's significance to the church, as well as her service to her country, did not come through women's organizations, Christian education, or missionary work.[4]

Military service[edit]

During World War II, McAfee took a leave of absence from Wellesley to direct the newly formed WAVES, a force that eventually numbered more than 80,000 women, both enlisted and officer. The Women's Reserve (WR) was created when President Roosevelt signed the authorizing legislation into law on July 30, 1942. McAfee was commissioned as a lieutenant commander the following week, on August 3, and quickly set down rules for enlisted women, including that they use only enough make-up "to look human".[5] With others, she campaigned for WAVES to have the same pay and benefits as their male counterparts. These efforts resulted in Public Law 183, effective on November 9, 1943, which entitled all WR personnel the allowances and benefits available to men. It also provided for one captain in the Women's Reserve; Lieutenant Commander McAfee was promoted to captain later that same month.[6] She succeeded in integrating women of color into the U.S. Naval Reserve Officer Corps and enabled them to serve in many areas and capacities while their male counterparts were limited to serving as cooks and bakers. She ensured that women of color would be treated like any of the other WAVES and assigned as officers in various companies.[7] During the peak of World War II, Captain McAfee commanded 82,000 women.[8]

In 1945, McAfee was featured on the cover of Time (magazine) for a job "well done".[9]

After the war, McAfee resigned from the Naval Reserve. She was the first woman to receive the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, presented to her by Navy Secretary Forrestal on November 7, 1945.[10] She also received the American Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.

Personal life and death[edit]

In August 1945 she married the Reverend Dr. Douglas Horton (died 1968), the dean of the divinity school at Harvard University. However, the work that she accomplished as a single woman, prior to her marriage, set her apart from many women of her time, whose husbands' work tended to open doors and overshadow women's accomplishments.[11] In 1948, McAfee was asked to address the World Council of Churches, making her one of the first few women to do so. She told the council, "that the secular institutions need to be supplemented by a virile church, alert to its unique mission to keep man conscious of his relation to the loving, judging, living God."[12]

In 1950, McAfee became a vice-president at large of the National Council of Churches, upon its founding. She had previously been serving as the first female vice-president of the Federal Council of Churches, which had been working to merge eight interdenominational boards to form the National Council.[13] While holding this office with the National Council of Churches, she also sat on the boards of [NBC] and [RCA] in order to develop religious programming.[14] She would later become the president of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.

As an advocate for the ordination of women in the Presbyterian Church (USA), McAfee wrote an article entitled, "Second-Class Citizens or Partners in Policy," in which she challenged the church stating, "The crucial question about the place of women in the church is whether or not the church will accept the pattern of the secular society (with which most women are fully content) or will take the lead within it own life demonstrating the truth of ultimate worth, whether it be male or female."[15]

McAfee Hall at Wellesley is named in her honor, as is Horton Hall at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). She was President of the UNH Board of Trustees, serving on the board from 1963 to 1974.

She died in Berlin, New Hampshire at the age of 94.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hendricks, Elizabeth G. "Mildred McAfee Horton (1900—1994): Portrait of a Pathbreaking Christian Leader." The Journal of Presbyterian History (1997-) 76, no. 2 (1998): 159-74. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23335371. 161.
  2. ^ Hendricks, Elizabeth G. "Mildred McAfee Horton (1900—1994): Portrait of a Pathbreaking Christian Leader." The Journal of Presbyterian History (1997-) 76, no. 2 (1998): 159-74. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23335371.162.
  3. ^ Hendricks, Elizabeth G. "Mildred McAfee Horton (1900—1994): Portrait of a Pathbreaking Christian Leader." The Journal of Presbyterian History (1997-) 76, no. 2 (1998): 159-74. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23335371. 171.
  4. ^ Hendricks, Elizabeth G. "Mildred McAfee Horton (1900—1994): Portrait of a Pathbreaking Christian Leader." The Journal of Presbyterian History (1997-) 76, no. 2 (1998): 159-74. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23335371. 170-171.
  5. ^ Current Biography 1941, pp539-41
  6. ^ "History of the Navy Reserve", TNR - The Navy Reserve, March 2011, p12
  7. ^ Hendricks, Elizabeth G. "Mildred McAfee Horton (1900—1994): Portrait of a Pathbreaking Christian Leader." The Journal of Presbyterian History (1997-) 76, no. 2 (1998): 159-74. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23335371. 164.
  8. ^ "Deaths," Ironwood Daily Globe, September 6, 1994, p11
  9. ^ "TIME Magazine Cover: Capt. Mildred McAfee - Mar. 12, 1945." Time. http://content.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19450312,00.html.
  10. ^ "WAVE Director Presented Award", Reno Evening Gazette, November 7, 1945, p1
  11. ^ Virginia Liesori Brereton, "United and Slighted: Women as Subordinated Insiders," in Between the Times: The Travail of the Protestant Establishment in America, 1900–1960, ed. William R. Hutchison (Cam bridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 147, 153.
  12. ^ David P. Gaines, The World Council of Churches: A Study of Its Background and History (Peterborough, N.H.: Richard R. Smith Co., 1966), 264.
  13. ^ Hendricks, Elizabeth G. "Mildred McAfee Horton (1900—1994): Portrait of a Pathbreaking Christian Leader." The Journal of Presbyterian History (1997-) 76, no. 2 (1998): 159-74. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23335371. 165.
  14. ^ Hendricks, Elizabeth G. "Mildred McAfee Horton (1900—1994): Portrait of a Pathbreaking Christian Leader." The Journal of Presbyterian History (1997-) 76, no. 2 (1998): 159-74. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23335371. 169.
  15. ^ Boyd, Lois A., and R. Douglas. Brackenridge. Presbyterian Women in America: Two Centuries of a Quest for Status. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1983. 155-156.

Further reading[edit]

  • "Education: Vassarette to Wellesley" TIME May 25, 1936 online
  • "Miss Mac," TIME March 12, 1945 online
  • Akers, Regina T. "Horton, Mildred McAfee" in Notable American women: a biographical dictionary completing the twentieth century. ed by Susan Ware, (Harvard University Press, 2004) pp 311–13.

External links[edit]