An artist, a museum, and an Army recruitment officer joined forces in 1944 as World War II raged.
The artist, Frances Vandeveer Kughler, the museum, the Hudson River Museum
, and a woman lieutenant, Joanne Coates, captured the images of a small band of Yonkers women, enlisting in the United States Womens Army Corps (WACS), a new opportunity for this countrys women. The volunteer soldiers embarked to Europe, the United States, and Canada to become drivers, telephone operators, cryptographers breaking codes and traffic controllers ─ just some of the 239 jobs the countrys armed services opened to them.
As the women began the adventure of war, Westchester was gifted with a collection of their portraits in oil and pastel, now on view in the exhibition Westchester Women & War: Portraits at the Hudson River Museum, Yonkers,May 26 to September 9. The Museum adds to this collection in 2012 with new photographs of 12 soldiers, most from contemporary conflicts, who grew up in Westchester or made the County home. Noted photographer Margaret Moulton captured the images of todays veterans, who range from New York National Guardsmen serving to World War II veterans still proud to share their experiences.
All the women soldiers, from todays conflicts and World War II, have stories and perspectives on the wars as they crossed lines of gender and race to face both military and social conflict: two WAC portraits, Pfc. Marguerite Chase and Jennie George Lee, testify to the importance of African Americans military service in World War II and both were real-life Rosie the Riveters, working at the GM Eastern Aircraft plant in Tarrytown before enlisting. Pvt. Jeanne S. Solimine, a graduate of Yonkers High School was a member of the Red Cross before entering the WACs. The first bridal shower given by the New Yorks Womens Military Service Club honored WAVE Specialist Jean Logan, third class, who married a midshipman. Many of the Yonkers women were sworn in by Lt. Joanne L. Coates, who graduated from Bryn Mawr, successfully completed Officers Candidate School, to become the WAC recruiting officer of the U.S. Army Recruiting Office in Yonkers.
Among todays veterans, some still working after active duty in the armed services, others retired, are Technical Sergeant Crystal Radcliff, from White Plains, now employed at the Air National Guard; Major Tanya Pennella, from Somers, New York in the Army National Guard, in charge, now, of training at Peekskills Camp Smith, and Colonel Mary Westmoreland from Bronxville, who served in Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia in 1990, now retired. A video of the todays veterans recounting their military moments adds to Kughlers 1940s pastel and oil portraits and Moultons photographs. At the exhibition close, the images of the women and full film footage of their stories will become part of the Hudson River Museums archival collections.