84-year-old Gloria Riggin recently visited our Lower Manhattan StoryBooth with her daughter, Patricia. Gloria shared stories of her time in the WAVES, a World War II-era women’s division of the Navy. “I felt that if the men could go to war, why couldn’t women?” Gloria said. At the age of 20, she joined the WAVES, whose members were able to hold the same rank and ratings as their male counterparts.
Gloria trained in Milledgeville, Georgia, where she says the whole town turned out to watch the female recruits exercising on the town’s college campus. She went on to serve as a storekeeper in the Navy, giving up her old job of $50 a week for just $50 a month.
After the war ended, Gloria got married. Since she was still a WAVE, she had to receive special permission from her commanding officer to wear a bridal gown. She got the permission, and family and friends gave their ration coupons for sugar so that a wedding cake could be made. Gloria was married and ended her service in the WAVES shortly after.
“I think that was one war that everyone wanted to do something to help. And I was really so excited about going in the WAVES I felt like I was doing something,” Gloria remarked. She still has her uniform, and is happy to see the increased level of service women are making alongside men today.