Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) was the women’s branch of the Naval Reserves during World War II. The WAVES was created on July 30, 1942 when President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Navy’s Women’s Reserve Act into law. Similar to the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) the WAVES was enacted to allow women to take over certain jobs in the Navy and free up men for sea duty. WAVES were allowed to enlist and were then able to apply for officer’s candidate school. However, it was implied that at the close of WWII, the WAVES would be disbanded. Mildred H. McAfee served as the first director of the WAVES, beginning at Lt. Commander and was eventually promoted to Captain.
Women were first able to enlist in the Navy Reserves in World War I as Female Yoemen. This program began in 1917, and the women who joined enlisted for the same reason that women joined the WAVES in WWII; patriotism and a desire to help end the war earlier. Female Yeomen were disbanded in 1920, and nurses remained the only women in the navy until 1942, when the WAVES were created.