Thank you for your Service, Betty White

January 17, 2022 would’ve been Betty White’s 100th birthday. The actress and comedienne died in her sleep on December 31, 2021. Most of her fans knew her from her roles on The Golden Girls and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, with her trademark razor sharp wit keeping audiences laughing since The Betty White Show in 1952. While news stories have largely focused on her trailblazing career in entertainment, and rightfully so, with Betty being one of the first women to work both in front of and behind the camera and also the first woman to produce a sitcom in the United States, we wanted to mark this day thanking Betty for her service during World War II.

The American Women’s Voluntary Services was founded in 1940, in order to help the nation prepare for war. The founder, Alice Throckmorton McLean based the AWVS on an organization in Britain, the Royal Voluntary Service, which had been founded two years earlier. The purpose of both organizations was to help empower and mobilize women to support the war effort. Britain had seen devastation from air raids during the first world war, and the founders of the Royal Voluntary Service knew that women had been relied on to keep the homefront secure while the men were fighting. The AWVS was founded on similar principles; however as the founding women were wealthy and the organization based in New York, it was looked upon as suspicious by those who felt American should stay out of the war and as alarmist by others. There was also quite a bit of pushback from those who didn’t feel that women should be working or quite so involved in the war effort.

[American Women’s Voluntary Services members posed on steps, wearing various AWVS uniforms] / World Telegram photo by Bill Schiff.

Even with the public trepidation, the American Women’s Voluntary Service had 18,000 members at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. By 1942 the AWVS had over 350 branches, all across the country. They were intentional about including women from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds, which drew further criticism from organizations like the Ku Klux Klan and others in the still segregated south. In the early days, the volunteers would patrol the east and west coasts, watching for enemy planes, a job later taken over by the Women’s Army Corps. Since the air raids that had been anticipated by Alice and the other founders never reached our shores again after the Pearl Harbor attack, the AWVS became a funnel for women who wished to volunteer for the war effort, training them in driving ambulances and in military motor pools, operating mobile kitchens, selling war bonds, typing, radio work, and emergency switchboard operation. Once trained, those women were often mobilized by other organizations, such as the Red Cross and the Office for Civil Defense.

Betty White served during WWII as a member of the American Women’s Voluntary Services. CR: U.S. Army/Twitter

During World War II, Betty White served in the American Women’s Voluntary Services as a PX truck driver, shuttling supplies to the bivouacs in the Hollywood Hills. At night, she would attend and sometimes serve as entertainment at dances that were held for service members who were preparing to deploy overseas. Of her time in service, in an interview in 2010, Betty said, “It was a strange time and out of balance with everything, which I’m sure the young people are going through now.” Betty joined the AWVS shortly before her 20th birthday, and remained an active volunteer until the end of the war, which also saw the disbandment of the American Women’s Voluntary Services. It had been founded solely as support for the war effort, and with the war ended, there was no further need.

Many people are choosing to honor Betty White today by making a donation to an animal shelter in her honor, which is a wonderful way to honor her legacy. We have compiled a list of animal shelters in the Miami Valley that you can donate to, if you choose. Another way to honor Betty today would be to volunteer with a military service organization. We are always looking for volunteers here at Operation Veteran and Caregiver Support, just send us a message and we will let you know what events we have coming up!

Animal Shelters and their wish lists:

Miami County Animal Shelter – (link is to their Amazon wishlist – items will be shipped directly to the shelter!)

Shelby County Animal Shelter – (link is to their Amazon wishlist – items will be shipped directly to the shelter!)

Darke County Animal Shelter – (link is to their website which lists their most needed items)

Clark County SPCA – (link is to donate money via their website)

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