March celebrates Women’s History Month. Today’s Veteran of the Day is a pioneer who forged a path for future generations.
A Pennsylvania native, Frances E. Thorpe moved to New York to begin her undergraduate education at Hunter College. She later received her Master of Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh and worked at an adoption agency, managing the care of children in adoptive homes. When World War II started, she felt she could be most helpful to the war efforts in a newly formed unit of the U.S. Naval Reserve, Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES).
At the time, very few women joined the military, let alone women of color. Despite these very real obstacles, Wills Thorpe enrolled in the Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School at Smith College in November 1944. On Dec. 21, 1944, Thorpe graduated and became one of the first African American women to be commissioned as an officer in the Navy.
After graduating, Thorpe served at the Hunter Naval Training Station in the Bronx, teaching Naval History and administering classification tests. With the conclusion of the war in 1945, she went to work as a secretary for Langston Hughes, the famous American poet. She detailed this in her memoir “Navy Blue and Other Colors,” published under her married name, Frances Wills Thorpe. Recalling her time in the Navy, she recounted the adventures and achievements she had and how later in life she began to care for and treat traumatized war Veterans.
Frances Wills Thorpe passed away in 1998.
We honor her service.
Nominate a Veteran for #VeteranOfTheDay
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. All it takes is an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with as much information as you can put together, along with some good photos. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.
Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Jaasmine Stephens
Editor: Kailey Miller
Graphic artist: Austin Waters