Sunday, May 22, 2016

Genealogy Journey's Podcast #10: World War II and Women

In honor of Memorial Day we are featuring some information about women in World War II.

We'd like to thank our friend and genealogist Sandra Bourassa for allowing us to tell her mother and aunt's story.

Thelma Marie Wright. Used with permission.

My Mother Thelma Marie Wright was born 30 Nov 1923 in Canton, Haywood Co, North Carolina.  She was the 11th child of Columbus Newton Wright and Narkie Alice Hamlett.  My Grandparents had a total of 13 children, 11 lived. The first 10 were boys, the next was my Aunt Helen Louise and the last was my Uncle George Wiley.

After high school sometime around 1942/43 my mom went to Asheville, North Carolina to interview for a job with the Signal Corps. Because of my mom's typing speed of about 100 words per minute and short hand (not sure of speed) she was hired and worked in Arlington, Virginia.

The one thing I know about her work career was every Monday morning she accompanied her boss to review news reals coming from various fronts in Europe and Africa. She told me she would ask her boss on Friday if he might not need her help for the review of films on Monday, but his answer as always the same, he needed her! Mom said these films had pictures of the fighting and bodies in various fronts, the worst was the concentration camps of Germany and Eastern Europe. Her boss decided what films were released and what was not released. Overall mom liked her job, but Monday was a very hard day.

One good thing was her cousin who worked in Washington DC and met a Naval Academy Midshipman on a bus bench. This Midshipman invited her to a party and told her to invite her friends. Lucky for me she did, because my Mom and Dad were in love at first sight! Her cousin got over the fact my Dad did not fall for her and did go to their wedding. My Dad was the Midshipman on the bus bench.
Helen Wright and her Womens Army Corp Unit. Used with permission. 

My Aunt Helen wanted to take flying lessons, but her father Columbus Newton Wright did not want to sign for her to fly. He knew she wanted to join the Air WACs. Her friend Joyce Mann, who was a year older than her, had crashed her plan and died. Helen had to go to Alabama as they did not enlist women in North Carolina. Helen dreamed of shuttled aircraft about, but she never became a pilot. I have a picture of her with her unit.  

Information from her U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 Record on states:
Name: Helen Wright Birth Year: 1922 Race: White, citizen Nativity State or Country: North Carolina State: Alabama County or City: Mobile Enlistment Date: 18 May 1944 Enlistment State: Alabama Enlistment City: Montgomery Branch: Womens Army Corps Branch Code: Womens Army Corps Grade: Private Grade Code: Private Term of Enlistment: Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law.

Helen worked in Paper Mills all her adult life.  She died of lung cancer in 1993. Canton is a Paper Mill town. She married, but ended in divorcee in Jacksonville Florida. She loved to ocean fish and I think she always wished she had learned to fly.

Jean spoke of her parent's lives during the War. Here's some of the ration books and other items.

From the collection of Jean Wilcox Hibben

From the collection of Jean Wilcox Hibben

From the collection of Jean Wilcox Hibben.

From the collection of Jean Wilcox Hibben

From the collection of Jean Wilcox Hibben

From the collection of Jean Wilcox Hibben

Gena mentioned some WWII recipes from  a cookbook she owns. If you're brave enough, here are some to consider:

From the collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega

From the collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega

From the collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega

From the collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega

Resources mentioned in this podcast include:

The Great War 1914-1918. The Story Behind the Remembrance Poppy 

Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. General John a Logan's Memorial Day Order 

Wikipedia. Memorial Day 

CBS News. We Called it Decoration Day

Time. 7 Things You didn't Know About Memorial Day

Lane Memorial Library. General John A Logan's Memorial Day Order.

History. Memorial Day.

Encyclopedia of Chicago. Manhattan Project 

The National WWII Museum. Women in WWII At A Glance

American Red Cross. World War II and the American Red Cross

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