WACs' Protest at Camp Breckinridge, KY
In 1943, six African American members of the Women's Army Corps (WACs) resigned from the Army after their unit staged a protest over job assignments. Under the command of 1st Lieutenant Myrtle Anderson and 2nd Lieutenant Margaret E. B. Jones, the unit was the first group of enlisted African American women stationed in Kentucky. The unit was a division of the first Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs) that had been established at Fort Des Moines, IA in 1942; a total of 118 African American women were trained at the location.
In 1943, the WAACs were being transitioned over to the WACs. The Kentucky unit personnel had been trained to become supply clerks, but once stationed at Camp Breckinridge, they were assigned tasks such as stacking beds and scrubbing the floors of the warehouses and latrines. The women protested, Anderson and Jones complaining to their superior officer Colonel Kelly, but nothing was done. There was also the complaint that white soldiers had entered the women's barracks at night and officers had to protect them.
As the tension continued to increase, the last straw came when the women were told to wash the walls of the laundry; the women went on strike. After five days, the Army responded by allowing the women to leave the service without honor. Those who resigned were Beatrice Brashear, Gladys Morton, Margaret Coleman, Mae E. Nicholas, and Viola Bessups, all from New York, and Ruth M. Jones from New Jersey. The Army's official response was that the "girls" had not been given a proper assignment and there was a disturbance. The Camp Breckinridge Public Relations Office acknowledged the resignations but had no additional comments.
For more see "6 WACs Resign: WAC clerks decline to scrub floors," Philadelphia Afro American, 7/10/1943, pp. 1 & 15 and Hollingsworth, Randolph, Race and Gender during WWII at Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky at the Kentucky Women in the Civil Rights Era website.
For more about Camp Breckinridge, see the Camp Breckinridge entry in the Kentucky Encyclopedia and History of Camp Breckinridge, by P. Heady.