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In celebration of Women's History Month we salute Edith Nourse Rogers

GI Bill Signing 1942
GI Bill Signing 1942

 

 

 

 

 

 

On March 19, 1881 Edith was born in Saco, ME into a wealthy family, because of her social status she was able to volunteer for church and social causes.

In 1907 she married John Jacob Rogers, a Harvard graduate who became involved in politics and was elected to Congress in 1913. Edith, having volunteer experience gave much of her time to the Red Cross and at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington during World War 1.

Because of her experience, after the war was over President Harding appointed her as the inspector of new Veterans' Hospitals.

In 1925 her husband died and she was urged to run in the special election called to fill his seat. She won the election in a landslide and became the sixth woman elected to Congress.

She sponsored many bills that were military related, but a couple stand out: In early 1941 she introduced legislation to create the WAAC (Women's Army Auxiliary Corps) which placed women into auxiliary duties in the Army, but Congress was loathe to give women military status. Even though the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard had women on active duty during World War 1, women who filled nursing and clerical duties in the Army were basically contractors.

Due to the escalation of World War 2 she introduced more legislation to change the WAAC to the WAC (Women's Army Corps) and it passed Congress.

So Edith, basically singlehandedly created the WAC and opened the Army to women.

That wasn't enough, after World War 2 was over Edith, using her life experience with volunteering and seeing conditions in Veteran's hospitals helped to write and co-sponsor legislation known as the Servicemen's Readjustment Act, which provided education benefits, low-interest loans, and unemployment benefits for Veterans.

This legislation was the beginning of what we know now as The GI Bill. So Edith can basically be called "The Mother of the GI Bill".

Edith stayed in Congress until 1958 when she decided not to run against a guy named John F. Kennedy. But on this day we remember a champion of Veterans and women who should be honored for her service to this nation.

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