Celebrating 50 Plus Years of Service

 

For the past 50 years, the WAC Foundation of 1969 has evolved into the U.S. Army Women’s Foundation we know today. Through all the changes — the museum location, the names of the Foundation, the broadening of the focus on all Army Women, the restructuring of the Foundation itself—the mission has stayed the same: to recognize and honor the achievements and service of Army Women—past, present, and future.

The Foundation. In 1955, shortly after the Women’s Army Corps Center was activated at Fort McClellan, Alabama, a small museum was created to display uniforms, photographs, and other memorabilia reflecting women’s Army service. As this collection grew, and as women’s roles in the Army evolved, the need for a permanent facility to show the Women’s Army Corps history was recognized. To help achieve this goal, the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) leaders established the WAC Foundation in 1969. The Foundation’s goals included planning for a permanent facility to house the WAC collection and raising the money necessary for the building.

The Foundation was built by women who stepped up to ensure the organization’s success and the history of the Women’s Army Corps would be told. The original idea for the Foundation came from COL Maxine B. Michl, then the commander of the WAC Center, who became the first Foundation president. In 1973, COL Bettie J. Morden, USA, Retired was elected Foundation President, a position she held until her resignation due to health reasons in 2001. COL Morden led the Foundation through the challenges of fundraising for the WAC Museum, the museum addition, base closure, packing and storing of artifacts and collections, and the move and reinstallation in the new facility. She faced many of the challenges and changes, growing a group of supporters who gave their hearts, souls, and financial support to the Foundation and the museum. Other significant leaders in the quest to build the Foundation include BG Elizabeth Hoisington, Colonels Eleanore Sullivan, Nancy Hardy, and Betty Branch, Sergeants Major Mary Lee, Yzetta Nelson, Helen Allen, and Betty Adams.

The Museuem. Over the next few years, the Foundation raised over $400,000 through direct mail campaigns, individual contributions both large and small, bake sales, and lots of hard work. The doors of the WAC Museum were opened in May 1977 in colorful dedication ceremonies. The building, located in the heart of the Women’s Army Corps Center, Fort McClellen was donated to the U.S. Government and became the official WAC Museum. For twenty years the WAC Foundation continued to support the museum’s exhibits and collections, establishing a memorial program, and adding a new wing in 1986.

When the decision was made to close Fort McClellan in 1996 as part of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, the government committed to moving the museum to Fort Lee, VA. By this time, the WACs branch had been disbanded (1978), and women were integrated throughout the Army. The new museum’s mission was expanded to cover all Army Women. Fort Lee was a particularly appropriate choice for the museum as it was the center for Army logistics and combat service support training. Fort Lee was also the first home of the WAC Training Center following the 1948 integration of the military women’s elements* into the regular army forces. To reflect the new mission, the WAC Foundation changed its name in 2000 to the U.S. Army Women’s Museum Foundation. The new U.S. Army Women’s Museum was dedicated on May 11, 2001.   To complement the museum programs, the Foundation sponsored a unique research project conducted by George Mason University on the socio-economic impact the Army has had on the lives of the women who have served.  As part of its key goals, the Foundation continued to support the expansion of the museum both physically and virtually to record and preserve the story of Army Women.  In November 2018, the museum underwent a renovation of its galleries and exhibit halls.

Today.  Fast-forward to 2020 —the Foundation honors, empowers and connects Army women, with the goal to shape the future.  To honor Army women, the Foundation, remembers and recognizes women through our Hall of Fame Recognition program. To empower and help Army women achieve their academic and career goals, the Foundation provides scholarships to women who have served their country honorably. Through the Foundation’s leadership development forums, the Foundation offers opportunities for Army women to network and to hear from experts in defense policy, veteran benefits, and civilian workforce opportunities.

The U.S. Army Women’s Foundation is the genesis of the old and the new, tradition and modernization, yet what stays the same is the clarity of vision and mission of the organization. No doubt, the next fifty years will offer a widening view of the Army Soldier, and along with that, the continuation of the extraordinary history of women who have served and the values they share.

 

*The 1948 Armed Forces Integration act regularized women as members of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The Marine Corps women were included under the Navy. During World War II, women were accepted into the reserve components as a temporary wartime expedient to serve “for the duration plus six months.”