With proper ceremony the Navy was winding up a supply training program at Wellesley. Among the college officials on the platform sat high-ranking Navy officers. Although Wellesley's faculty had never really cottoned to the presence of 200 sailors on the campus, one speaker after another politely sang the Navy's praises. Then Captain Mildred McAfee of the WAVES, who is also Wellesley's part-time president, got up. "The Navy reminds me of having a trained nurse in your home," she said. "You are glad to see her come" She paused, briskly continued: "Now let us go on with the report on endowment."
"Miss Mac," as her colleagues call her, has a gift for getting down to earth. She was getting ready last week to shove off on another one of her frequent speaking and inspection trips to Navy bases. This one would take her to the Ninth Naval District, in the Midwest. Navymen, who like people who get down to earth, looked forward to her coming. As far as her own outfit was concerned, Miss Mac expected to find very little out of the way. There had never been any serious troubles among the women of the U.S. Naval Reserves. Now that they had shaken down into their various assignments, Miss Mac's tours were little more than routine checkups. The WAVES were doing all right. Little was heard about them by the U.S. public, but so far as Miss Mac was concerned that was all right, too.
Womanly Infiltration. Her organization was not autonomous, and Miss Mac herself had no command as such; as director of the WAVES she merely stood in the background, giving advice and, like a wise spinster aunt, smoothing things out. Her WAVES were a womanly infiltration into certain spots where they could pick up, straighten out and perform some chores even better than men.
WAVES who had worked as hairdressers, for instance, had turned out to be deft at rigging parachutes. In such routine jobs as Navy storekeeping, clerical work, stenography, the Navy's women were at least as competent as the Navy's men. In addition they had taken over jobs which no one had thought anyone could do but men. They weather-briefed Navy pilots, made weather observations and forecasts, directed air traffic from flying-field control towers.
They instructed Navy pilots in instrument flying (in Link trainers), taught Navy airmen to shoot. They had become metalsmiths, radiomen, aviation machinist's mates, truck drivers, laboratory technicians, decoders and cooks. There are some 1,000 naval installations in the U.S., and at roughly half of them WAVES are at work. At the Navy Department in Washington there are more Navy women than men. In Hawaii, the farthest place overseas to which Congress would let them venture, the WAVES are competently filling a crying need for yeomen, aviation ratings, hospital corpsmen.
The Big Point. The point that Miss Mac liked most to make was that her WAVES had released more than 70,000 men for combat, which was the same as adding 70,000 men to the Navy's muster.