Before we all began hunkering down in quarantine, I was supposed to be spending time this spring in Hawaii on my honeymoon. Then, the whole world changed and now I am working from home and staying safe. While I am obviously not on my honeymoon right now, I am going to post this piece to continue to highlight some of the interesting items in our collection and to give you all something different to read about today.
While daydreaming about my upcoming trip, I decided to search our collections for the keyword “Hawaii” to see what we had. We don’t have much, but the Mary Rose Schueller W.A.V.E.S. Collection came up. This small collection spans the years of 1944-1946 and contains newspaper clippings, letters, photographs, and even articles of clothing that commemorate a short-lived program that integrated women into the U. S. Navy during WWII.
Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (W.A.V.E.S.) was the women’s branch of the U. S. Naval Reserve established in 1942. The program was intended to fill on-shore roles with women so that more men could be sent to sea. Women in this program were stationed at bases all over the continental United States and not permitted overseas, with Hawaii being the only exception. At the time, Hawaii was still a U. S. Territory and would not become a state for a few more years. Many women were motivated to join the program out of patriotism, professional development, or even opportunities for adventure. This collection is a wonderful reminder of those opportunities and the sacrifices made by those women during World War 2.
One box in the collection contains Schueller’s log books. One of them is from her time stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas and the other from her time in Honolulu, Hawaii. Each book contains a few pages of handwritten entries neatly noting details of individual flights such as pilots, passengers, duration, and character.
The most interesting item in our collection is a large scrapbook kept by Schueller. The scrapbook contains photographs of W.A.V.E.S. women, letters to Mary from friends and family, birthday cards, postcards, newspaper clippings, and other ephemera from all over the country. The scrapbook was meticulously organized, with cards and pamphlets taped to the pages just so that they can be opened and their messages read. Some of the more delicate letters were removed and stored in a separate box for safe keeping, but most of the items are still right where Schueller left them.
Some of the newspaper clippings and photographs are serious pieces about activities of the Navy, while others are a bit sillier. One article is a piece about a cat on base having kittens!
While war is a terrible thing, this scrapbook contains many pieces of memorabilia from the adventures and friendships that were formed during these women’s time in the Navy. W.A.V.E.S. was demobilized in 1946, having only existed for four years, but soon women would be allowed in regular United States military service.
I have only just begun to discover the unique and amazing things that we have here in our collections and I am missing all of those bookshelves right now. We are currently not open for research, but please visit our catalog and make some plans for when we re-open! Stay home, stay safe, and wash your hands. I’m going to close my eyes now and pretend that I’m in Hawaii, feeling the sun on my skin and the wind on my face…