Civil Air Patrol
The volunteer members of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) provided vital resources to combat national security threats during World War II. With fewer membership constraints, many women trained with the CAP, and the program became an important tool in growing the pool of qualified pilots available for national defense. Pilots such as Willa Brown served as a role model for minority women everywhere. She challenged traditional military occupations, and became the first African-American female officer in the Illinois CAP.
Women Airforce Service Pilots
The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) were the first women in history to fly American military aircraft. The WASPs aided our nation when America faced a shortage of combat pilots during World War II and also pioneered the integration of women pilots into the Armed Services. They made a patriotic sacrifice to serve our country, flying more than 60 million miles in numerous aircraft. With the exception of combat missions, the Women Airforce Service Pilots flew the same assignments as their male Army Air Force counterparts.
At 31 years old, Jacqueline Kennedy became the century’s youngest First Lady to enter the White House. In her first month in the role, Kennedy established a White House Fine Arts Committee devoted to restoring and preserving our country’s cultural history, which transformed the White House into an artistic center where all Americans could celebrate national history and culture. While she embraced the more traditional responsibilities incumbent upon a First Lady, she actively contributed to matters of state, helping to redefine women’s roles outside the conventional family structure.
Internationally recognized for her life-long devotion to the poor, the dying and the unwanted, Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s service remains an enduring legacy of charity across the globe. Acknowledged as a heroine, she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Reagan in 1985. Her nearly 70 years of philanthropic work serve as an everlasting testament to the power of humanitarian efforts.
Mamie Eisenhower institutionalized the First Lady’s role as political campaigner, cheerfully traveling alongside her husband leading up to his 1953 inauguration. Genuinely loved by the American public, Eisenhower enjoyed answering the many letters she received and assisted in fund-raising activities for several institutions and charities. Eisenhower involved herself in every aspect of the household, including financial and business matters, which extended beyond the traditional role of “hostess” that her predecessors assumed. This level of engagement set a standard that modern First Ladies continue to emulate.
Content updated March 1, 2016