Even with the roadblocks in Congress, it was also apparent that the Navy – like civilian industries before it – needed more than just men to serve at sea and at home. Civilian factory women were known as “Rosie the Riveter”– the Navy needed an equally snappy name. This was something Elizabeth Reynard, who had struggled with the more conservative nature of the Navy, could do. It offered a use for her creative talents.
She “played with two letter and the idea of the sea and finally came up with ‘Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service’- W.A.V.E.S” recalled Mildred McAfee. Emergency, she thought would comfort admirals and others on the fence about women’s participation – implying it was only short term. The new name was an immediate hit with both the Navy and the press – and the would-be enlistees found it fairly snappy too. It was also a far more acceptable nickname to others being bandied about in the press like ‘gobettes’ or ‘sailorettes.’
Will they or won’t they? The WAVES Emerge Mildred McAfee The initial Officers Navy Recruitment