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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Letter from Catherine Katopes to Elva, 1944

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Object ID: WV0122.4.021

Description: Katopes discusses running into a friend in Washington; establishing a new detachment that male soldiers resent; new WAC off-duty uniforms; having African-American cooks in the mess hall; a Women's Reserve Lounge in the Peabody Hotel in Memphis; and the marriage of a WAC. Katopes posits that men will be ashamed of their discrimination against women in the army at some point in the near future.

Creator: Catherine Katopes

Biographical Info:

Catherine G. Katopes (1912-1979) served in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps and the Women's Army Corps from 1942 to late 1945.

Collection: Catherine G. Katopes Papers

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Jackson Library, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Full Text:

Dear Elva:

Imagine my surprise in seeing you in the Pentagon Building....wish so much that I could have spent some time with you to find out the why and wherefore of your being there....but I only had a few minutes and I had gone up to see Captain Hawes...and believe it or not...I could remember your first name immediately but I just couldn’t remember your last name....it is so easy to forget names after dealing with so many.

Gene Stapes likes it in Australia and has Captain Gardner as C.O., which is a good deal.

I think you knew about when we came out here to Memphis, and it has been a wonderful experience. I like it fine. I activated this detachment right after I got here and it is like a “pet baby” of mine. And what I have learned here at this post about the Army and Army Regulations....why I had no conception of it back at the training center....

I’m sorry I stayed in a training center so long but it all works out for the best because I wouldn’t give up the experience I had here for anything...

We aren’t quite accepted as yet by the men’s detachment here....guess they still resent us and even though they see how good we are an[d] all...they still are a wee bit jealous. It’s been a fight establishing the Wacs here but it is worth it....someday a lot of people are going to be ashamed of the attitude they took towards the WAC and in fact I bet two cents they will be ashamed to admit that they weren’t ready to accept women in the service when it first started...because it will show how ignorant they were not to accept it....we are just like a new invention....people think it will never work...And after two years of it, too....

How do you like our new dresses? I’m just crazy about them. Wore mine to town this morning and people stared and a couple asked me if I was a nurse....of all things....but they do look so much like the nurses’ uniforms.....

But it is wonderful to walk around with a light skirt around one. Just the thought of slipping on a one-piece dress is grand.

We have a nice lay-out here...Have beautiful quarters, individual rooms, two rooms to each bathroom containing tub shower, etc. and a good sized room. Have an adorable mess hall attached to our quarters. We have colored cooks and K.P.’S and they are darn good cooks. Miss having Wacs as cooks but have now become accustomed to our colored cooks. They are awfully nice to us too. A WAC Mess Sergeant is in charge of the mess hall though.

It sure is hot down around heah [sic]....It keeps close to the hundred mark....Memphis is a nice town as towns go....not much to do but where is there much to do except Washington, Chicago and New York and perhaps Hollywood. They have several movie houses, A Women’s Reserve Lounge in the Hotel Peabody where Women in the Service are welcome but where service men may come in only if escorted by a service woman. Ain’t that unique? It really is something to walk up the mezzanine of the hotel and see some servicemen waiting on the chance that some Wac or Wave will let them go in with them. They serve beer, etc. and it is quite reasonable and there is some space to dance to music from a juke box.

We had a Wac getting married this afternoon and it was a lovely wedding.....she wore her new dress and it looked so nice.....

Getting low on page, and Elva, do write and tell me what took you to Washington.

Sincerely, Kay