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March 1957 Popular ElectronicsTable of Contents
People old and young enjoy waxing nostalgic about and learning some of the history of early electronics. Popular Electronics was published from October 1954 through April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged. See all articles from Popular Electronics.
Oddly, the article does not tell you the origin of the acronym "WAVES." From the U.S. Navy's history page:
"After a twenty-three-year absence, women returned to general Navy service in early August 1942, when Mildred McAfee was sworn in as a Naval Reserve Lieutenant Commander, the first female commissioned officer in U.S. Navy history, and the first Director of the WAVES, or "Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service". In the decades since the last of the Yeomen (F) left active duty, only a relatively small corps of Navy Nurses
represented their gender in the Naval service, and they had never had formal officer status. Now, the Navy was preparing to accept not just a large number of enlisted women, as it had done during World War I, but female Commissioned Officers to supervise them. It was a development of lasting significance, notwithstanding the WAVES' name, which indicated that they would only be around during the wartime 'Emergency'. "
A "WAVE" in Naval Electronics
By H. H. Fantel
A pert redhead with blue eyes flashes her winning smile from the cockpit of a Navy fighter aircraft, and reports: "Radar i.f. bandwidth okay on all stages." No, this is no Hollywood movie, but actual proof that things are changing fast for the Navy, for electronics - and for women.
Proof became tangible in the form of Delores Startzel, Aviation Electronics Technician, USN. Even an "old salt" like John Paul Jones himself would have uncrusted a bit at the sight of such a charming sailor. But what would really have set him up on his sea legs is the fact that Delores has been doing an expert technical job on fully equal terms with Navy men. Her career reflects dramatically two important trends: the awakening of women to the opportunities of electronics, and their growing participation in the armed services at levels of high technical responsibility, qualified by thorough schooling.
Double-Barrelled Pioneer. Both in the Navy and in the field of electronics, Delores (Dee, for short) is somewhat of a pioneer. Of course, the WAVES have been a branch of the Navy for over a decade, yet they have had to sail against the blustery headwind of male prejudice. But by now it has dawned on even the most stubborn that men have no monopoly on brains. The female breakthrough on the technical front is a relatively recent development. In the Navy Electronics Training School at Memphis, Tenn., Dee was the only girl among more than a hundred marines.
Dee is proud to be among the first women doing advanced technical work in electronics. Like anything that smacks of engineering, electronics used to be an all-male preserve. But there just aren't enough qualified male technicians to take care of the ever-increasing variety of electronic equipment in military and civilian life. Under the pressure of this need, the old barriers of sex prejudice are now caving in. The military and private industry are no longer just looking for women with soldering irons tied to their apron strings. Now they want girls to be equally handy with the slide rule, the spec sheet, and a quick deduction from a complex schematic.
Many women have the necessary keen intelligence for such work,
but don't even realize it because they think of themselves as
"feminine." Subconsciously they feel that having brains is like
having pimples: they try to hide them or dry them up. Fortunately,
the old saw that keen-minded women are unattractive no longer
cuts any ice among intelligent men. Its teeth broke on the hard
realities of modern life that make men and women equal partners
in work and in marriage. Women who realize this no longer try
to shrivel their brains. They feel free to make the most of
their native intelligence and have it sharpened by thorough
schooling. Electronics, since it requires more brain than brawn,
seems a natural field for women's careers on the professional
and semi-professional level.
Dee didn't want to go to waste. She wanted to train and use her abilities. But after the first year of college, her money gave out. Instead of heading for the usual dead end of an unskilled job, Dee looked into the technical training offered by the armed services. It offered an answer to the question of her future. With a bit of pay and plenty of technical savvy stowed away, a girl would have a better toe-hold on the world. Besides paid education, Dee, who comes from a small town in the state of Washington, wanted a bit of travel and adventure - so the recruiting posters made plenty of sense to her. Always willing to take the next logical step, she enlisted.
Boot Camp Ahoy! The Navy did not immediately surrender to Dee's ambition. Like all recruits, she had to steer through the military purgatory known as "boot camp." Dee maintains tactful silence about "the senseless things that come with boot," realizing that it takes a tough dose of sheer barefaced drill and discipline to fit a former civilian into the military mold. For better or worse, that's part of the bargain. As a mature and understanding person, Dee accepts this discipline in the context of military life without letting it encroach on her democratic feeling of inner freedom as a person.
Posted November 9, 2011