October 19

October 19, 1944 – Harriet Ida Pikens and Frances Wills

The Navy’s WAVES (Women Accepted For Volunteer Emergency Service) accepted Harriet Ida Pikens and Frances Wills on October 19, 1944 as the first African American women in the United States Navy.  Both women graduated two months later becoming the first two African American female officers in the Navy.

"Lt.(jg.) Harriet Ida Pickens and Ens. Frances Wills, first Negro Waves to be commissioned. They were members of the fin - NARA - 520670

“Lt. (JG) Harriet Ida Pickens and Ens. Frances Wills”, the first African American Waves to be commissioned.

On December 21, 1944, the United States Navy commissioned Pikens as a Lieutenant and Wills as an Ensign. Women were not allowed in the Navy until the WAVES program was initiated as an effort to support the men who were going overseas in masses during World War II. Pikens and Wills were the first of 72 female African American Navel Officers that would serve through the end of World War II.  Pickens died in 1969 and Wills in 1998.