In July of 1942, women officially made a splash into the U.S. Navy when President Roosevelt signed into law a newly formed division, the U.S. Naval Reserve (Women’s Reserve), unofficially called WAVES or Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service. The WAVES held the same enlisted rank and rate, or job designation, as male personnel and received the same pay. However, the word “Emergency” in WAVES meant that women’s acceptance into military service was due specifically to the shortage of men to perform necessary military jobs. WAVES, and their counterparts in the Army, Women Army Corps (WACs) had no expectation to continue military careers at the end of World War II.
Marguerite A. Erixon was the first woman from Greeley to enlist and be sworn into WAVES in October 1942. In a November 1942 Greeley Tribune article, it stated that Marguerite had enlisted as an apprentice seaman and hoped to be connected to a branch of naval aviation after her training was completed. Marguerite, along with the other 27,000 U.S. women who enlisted that first year, would primarily do clerical work, but many would take positions in other fields such as air traffic control, cryptologists, hospital corpsmen, linguists, weather specialists, and artists who depicted the visual and sensory aspects of war by showing the military in action. At the beginning of World War II, WAVES were not allowed to serve aboard ships, in aircraft, and outside the contiguous United States.
Marguerite, daughter of Ethel and Gus Erixon, attended Greeley High School, and participated as a member of “The Tumbling Weeds,” a girls tumbling group. She was also a member of the International Relations Club. She graduated with the class of 1937 and went on to spend two and a half years, 1938-1941, at the Colorado State College of Education (CSCE) where she majored in business. Marguerite was a member of Delta Sigma Epsilon Sorority and in 1939 was the Sergeant-at-Arms.
Marguerite ended her U.S. Navy career as a Specialist First Class Petty Officer. Having served her country, Marguerite returned to Colorado and married Jean T. Cain, also a World War II Veteran from Weld County, and together they raised four children. Marguerite died in November 1990 and is buried in Fort Logan National Cemetery, Denver, CO. In 1972, the WAVES were disestablished in order to integrate the division into the main functions of the U.S. Navy.
Originally published in the Greeley Tribune in 2013
Written by Museums Registrar JoAnna Luth Stull