A Permanent Presence
In 1948 Congress passed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act which granted permanent regular and reserve status in all branches of the armed forces. The Women’s Army Corps (WAC) training center was established at Camp Lee, Virginia until it was moved to Fort McClellan, AL in 1954. Although permanent status came with its own challenges, an emphasis on professionalism and personal image helped ensure the success of the WAC. Uniforms were one of the primary ways in which the polished image of an Army women was portrayed and uniform styles in the 1950’s and 60’s often changed to reflect popular civilian fashion trends.
Dressed for Success
Army uniform styles, designed by women for women, changed with the fashions of the time, sometimes mirroring the look of male uniforms in color and cut and sometimes differing significantly by reflecting the most popular civilian styles. The uniforms became more practical with the introduction of pantsuits towards the end of the 1970’s.
Keeping the Beat
Musicians are integral to the order, discipline, and morale of troops. The Women’s Army Corps had five bands in World War II that played for ceremonies at training bases, marched during parades in local communities, and welcomed home troops at the ports of embarkation. In 1948, the 14th Army Band (WAC) carried on the tradition as the only all-female band in the Army until 1976. Bass drum #2 (pictured here) was used by band members of the 14th Army Band while at Fort McClellan, Alabama.
Col. Clotilde Bowen, shown here in 1978, was commissioned into the Army Medical Corps in 1955. She became the first African American female medical doctor in the armed forces. While serving in Vietnam, she supervised seventeen psychiatrists, nurses and social workers. She also helped plan and implement the Army’s drug and race relations programs.