By: Katelyn Fatzler & Evelyn Peregrin

While men in the armed forces will be shipped out to the Pacific to fight in the Second World War, mothers, wives, and sisters will take up new roles. With women eager to share the burden of war, volunteer services are calling on them for their specific skill sets.

This may be a war on a scale the U.S. has yet to encounter, and women are eager to offer their support for organizations such as the American Red Cross and American Women’s Volunteer Service.

In an outstanding show of patriotism, 2,000 women in New York City demonstrated that they are ready for war service by offering full or part-time services in home defense. Of those women, 200 are willing to serve in the Medical Reserve Corps of the Army and Navy if considered eligible.

A U.S Navy Nurse using her skill set to aid in the war effort. From Wikimedia Commons.

A U.S Navy Nurse using her skill set to aid in the war effort. From Wikimedia Commons.

The largest age group among these 200 are 35-45-year-old female doctors with specialties in tuberculosis, venereal diseases, contagion, anesthesia, pathology, psychiatry, eye, ear, nose and throat diseases, physiotherapy, neurology, and dermatology.

“Our finest public-spirited physicians are not standing by,” said Dr. Emily Barringer, president of the American Medical Women’s Association. “England needed them and so instead of being in our country’s uniform they are in Britain’s service.”

Barringer continues to explain the need for female doctors now that war has been declared. The lack of medical men in both the Army and the Navy is an immediate issue where women can help.

“Never before has the challenge been so great,” said Alta Elizabeth Dines, chair of the the national committee of the Nursing Service. “Thousands of young women with a good basic education, preferably college, [are] able to assume responsibility to train as nurses… Not only is great help needed in the healing of present wounds, but it will be needed also in the period of rehabilitation bound to follow the present.”

The New York chapter headquarters for the American Red Cross has seen major increases in enrollment for the First Reserves, in which nurses must be willing to serve in active warfare. Only those in the First Reserves will serve the Army and Navy.

An insufficient number of nurses are currently in the reserves—between 20,000 and 25,000 volunteers, according to director of nursing services Florence Johnson.

Qualifications for enrollment in the First Reserve require an individual to have obtained a degree from a state-approved school of nursing. She must also have taken part in a hospital training program approved by the American College of Surgeons.

The Red Cross is accepting nurses aged 21-40 who are registered with the American Medical Association and are in good standing with the American Nurses Association. While it may seem extensive, these requirements are for women willing to join the U.S. soldiers in war. The organization’s requirements are not expected to change.

Women can also be trained in first aid and nurse’s aid if they do not have experience in the field. Registered nurses will offer training courses for 500 women who have sign up over the last three days.

The New York Red Cross has registered 175 of these trainees and thus far has received over a thousand applications for first aid training, according to Helen Taft, assistant director of volunteer services. “The demand for training is higher than ever before,” she said.

The director of volunteer services at the New York Red Cross encouraged women to volunteer for work they already had experience in instead of training for new skills. She stated there was great need at the New York Red Cross for typists and clerical workers.

Manhattan resident Adaline Bloom works full time and volunteers at the New York Red Cross. Bloom and her roommate volunteer once a week as a clerical workers. “We [know] we [are] working for the war effort,” she said.

The Red Cross production department has had a threefold increase in volunteers, especially in the knitting unit. Their headquarters had to be relocated to a larger location. Now at 16 E. 34th St., the production department has been steadily making sweaters, caps, and socks to send overseas. More than 3,000 Army and Navy sweaters were shipped out this week.

Women are responding to different forms of civil action. The needs are as varied as their capabilities, as demonstrated by women who pilot their own planes. The possibility of women in aviation is being explored because of this fact and over 900 women volunteered to act as enemy plane spotters for the New York Information Center and American Women’s Volunteer Services.

This is a war calling for assistance on all fronts, especially from those at home in the U.S. The opportunities presented are for women to take action, no matter what the skill set.


“CITY’S NURSES RUSH TO JOIN RED CROSS.” New York Times (1923-Current File), Dec 10, 1941.

“VOLUNTEER LIST GROWS.” (1941, Dec 10). New York Times (1923-Current File)Retrieved from

“WAR WORK PLANS MADE FOR WOMEN.” New York Times (1923-Current File),Dec 12, 1941.

“WOMEN CONTINUE RUSH TO WAR WORK.” New York Times (1923-Current File), Dec 13, 1941.

By, A. P. (1941, Dec 14). Women doctors seek war tasks. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from

“WOMEN HASTENING TO JOIN WAR WORK.” New York Times (1923-Current File), Dec 11, 1941.

Adaline Bloom: Oral History Interview. Conducted by G. Kurt Piehler, Lara Fletcher, and Barbara Tomblin, 1996. Rutgers Oral History Archives.