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History and Heritage

Leading the Way

Uniformed Women of Yesterday

During the First World War, something unheard of happened when it came to the progress of women in the United States. They were officially allowed to enlist in the Navy. Since then, women have been paving the way in the military forces. From World War I to the conflicts of today, women have done their part. Here are the stories of two of those women.

Yeoman Emmy Lu Daly, U.S. Navy WAVES

During World War II, Emmy Lu Daly volunteered for the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) program, showing men in uniform that women could serve their country just as well.

Daly recalled that during wartime, everyone wanted to do their part. She and her mother thought joining the WAVES would be a great way for her to help the country.

"Oh, my mother practically pushed me out the door," Daly laughed. She recalled how back in the 1940's, every single person she knew was involved in the war effort in some way, and she was ready to join in herself. "That's the way it was back then."

By joining the WAVES, she joined an all-volunteer force of women who filled administrative roles in the Navy, shore side, so more male Sailors could join the fight. Daly, and women like her, kept Navy support and logistics commands from becoming understaffed.

When Daly enlisted at age 21, it was an eye-opening experience. She had to make a cultural shift from being a civilian to becoming a Sailor. At first, it was quite challenging to conform to a military lifestyle.

"I had a hard time in boot camp," said Daly. Her shoes didn't fit right initially, she recalled. "They injected both of my heels with Novocain and they said, 'Now get up and walk.' Oh and I did," she said, laughing.

The Navy was fundamental for her growth as a person.

"It was very good for me to get out of myself and be a part of something bigger and to learn what that was like," said Daly.

After boot camp, Daly trained as a yeoman and went to work at a supply depot near Salt Lake City. During her two years in the Navy, she played a key part in helping transport and label repair parts for ships, and ultimately getting them to the front lines.

She didn't think about her service much at the time, but now, at the age of 94, she realizes that she played a part in one of the most pivotal events in modern history.

"It was an important thing, the war was," said Daly, "and I was glad that I made my little contribution to it."

Retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Paulette Knor, U.S. Army

Paulette Knor is a retired United States Army chief warrant officer 3 (CWO3) who served for more than 21 years. She still remembers the reactions she encountered when she decided to join the service.

"My family was in shock when I joined the Army," said Knor. "My mom cried; she said, 'Your life will never be your own again, and I said, 'Mom, my life is always my own. It's what I choose to do with it."

Knor served on many posts and in various roles while in the service. Her final assignment was with United States Army Criminal Investigation Command.

Knor had to overcome many obstacles to achieve what she did and be accepted in the Army as a woman. When she joined, she explained, many people viewed women in the service as a burden, but, slowly and surely, perceptions started to change.

"When we had hand-to-hand combat training, the guys were all like, 'Yeah forget it, they can't handle this,' or whatever - until we threw the first one down on the ground," said Knor.

By proving herself, she not only changed the way her fellow Soldiers viewed her as a leader, but also the way they viewed other female Soldiers.

"They asked me to be the mom and to help those girls who weren't able to adjust to military life immediately," said Knor. Already in her mid-thirties, she was well versed in doing what needed to be done no matter what, and rising to the challenges she encountered.

"The Army guys just thought they were tougher than everybody else," she said. "We showed them that they weren't, and I think they learned a lot from that.

"I really feel that patriotism was a big part of my service," Knor continued. "I think it's important to give back to your country."