Of our loved ones who bravely fought and served our country, let's take a moment to recognize the countless women who quietly served right along their brothers in arms. Throughout our collective past, women have always been present, with dedication and fortitude, to defend our nation. As aptly reflected in the March 2019 edition of Homeland Magazine:
"Patriotism and the desire to serve one’s country in times of conflict have never been limited to men. American women have taken up the cause in one capacity or another since the Revolutionary War. And while the door to official military service may have been closed to many of them, women have always found a way to contribute. Some, such as Deborah Sampson or Cathay Williams, disguised themselves as men to fight. Others, like Molly Pitcher, served in an unofficial role, helping where they were needed."
Women In Military Service for American Memorial – Arlington Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
Women from all walks of life have served, applying their talents to support their country. Even our lady animators, from the very beginning, hold a long history of service by applying their talents in support of needed war efforts. In World War I, Helena Smith Dayton, our first known female animator, abandoned her burgeoning animation career in New York to volunteer for the Red Cross in Paris during the final year of the war-to-end-all-wars.
During World War II alone -— approximately 400,000 women from the US served within the armed forces. Within animation, women artists from all the major studios volunteered for service within the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES), Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS) and other areas of service. From MGM Studios' Cartoon Department, women such as Virginia Whitney, Betty Brown, Bernadine Schibler and Vonda Lee Bronson served as WAVES at the Naval Air Base Washington, D.C.
A wide range of military training films were created by the talents of women artists. From Animating, to Ink & Paint to Layout & Camera, women artists such as Enid Denbo Wizig and the Woods sisters – Marilyn & Madilyn, helped advance the war effort on the Private Snafu shorts from Schlesinger Studios.
At Disney, longtime animation artist Retta Davidson served her country as a draftsman and projectionist overseeing the Navy's film library in Washington, D.C. during WWII. Virginia Fleener, and many other lady-animators worked on Victory Through Air Power and a range of training and morale films produced at The Walt Disney Studios. Rae Medby McSpadden served as a Skywatcher on patrol identifying aircraft overhead while at the studio where she animated on various sequences within Frank Capra's Why We Fight series produced at The Walt Disney Studios during the war. Ink & Paint artist Grace Godino served as a military transport specialist, and countless ladies volunteered at the Hollywood Canteen in the evenings after their animating day-jobs.
Actress Shirley Temple volunteers at the Hollywood Canteen
Kate Smith arrives at the Hollywood Canteen
During WWII, approximately 543 women died in war-related instances, including 16 deaths from enemy fire and 38 unsung Women Airforce Service Pilots who crashed while in service — women who only received full benefits for their service in 2009 and were honored with the Congressional Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) during WWII
As the Homeland Magazine article aptly offers:
"If progress is a torch handed from one generation to the next, this torch has been moving forward since 1776, carried by laundresses and cooks, nurses and spies, pilots and soldiers. Each new generation of women has been inspired by the previous, adding their voices to the call for a fair chance to show their mettle. The brave women in today’s military themselves will be passing the torch to future generations, with the knowledge that the work they inherited from the generations before them will continue."
Here's to a complete view of those we remember on Memorial Day, and always!