Enlisted service women at Holy Names during WWII

The College of Holy Names hosted service women in its dormitory at 2036 Webster Street during World War II. The dormitory was located in the gymnasium and accommodated 30 women. Upon opening to the service women, the dormitory was visited by officials from the Women Army Corps (WAC); the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES), established as a WWII division of the U.S. Navy; the Coast Guard’s SPARS; and the U.S. Marine Corps’ Women’s Reserve.


Enlisted service women visiting the Bay Area could register for quarters at the college. Alumnae Mrs. Thomas J. Buckley, Miss Alice McAllister, and Miss Irene C. Ball hosted the service women and Mrs. Ellen Cook served as the matron.


History of women in the U.S. Armed Forces


WAC was originally an auxiliary unit of the U.S. Army established in May 1942 as the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). It reached full status as WAC in July 1943.


WAVES was founded in 1942. Unlike WAAC, WAVES was an official part of the Navy, rather than an auxiliary unit. Female personnel received the same rank and ratings as male personnel.

Coast Guard SPARS video circa 1943

SPARS is an acronym of the Coast Guard motto and its English translation, Semper Paratus, Always Ready. This women’s reserve was created in 1942 to free men from stateside service in order to fight overseas during WWII.

The Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was officially established in February 1943; however, about 300 women held clerical positions in the Marine Corps during WWI.


Private Minnie Spotted-Wolf (left) was the first American Indian woman to enter the Marine Corps

In 1948, the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act enabled women to be permanent members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, who could serve in times of war as well as peaceful periods.

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