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Capturing the Women's Army Corps

The World War II Photographs of Captain Charlotte T. McGraw

Francoise Barnes Bonnell

Publication Year: 2013

The photographs taken by Charlotte T. McGraw, the official Women’s Army Corps photographer during World War II, offer the single most comprehensive visual record of the approximately 140,000 women who served in the U.S. Army during the war. This collection of 150 of McGraw’s photos includes pictures made in Africa, in England at the headquarters of the European Theater of Operations, in Asia and the Pacific, and in military hospitals in the United States.

Serving from July 1942 to August 1946, Captain McGraw provided more than 73,000 photographs to the War Department Bureau of Public Affairs. Her photographs were published in the New York Times, New York Herald Tribune, and used by the Associated Press and the United Press, as well as in recruiting posters, handouts and informational pamphlets, and in the most popular magazines of the era such as Time, Colliers, Women’s Home Companion, Parade, Saturday Evening Post, and Mademoiselle.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press

Front Cover

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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4


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pp. 5-7


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pp. vii-8


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pp. viii-9

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pp. ix-x

It is often said that pictures say a thousand words. Nothing could be more illustrative of this ideology than Capt. Charlotte McGraw’s work, shown in photographs throughout this book. ...

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pp. xi-xii

This book is the product of two great things: professional historical inquiry and gratitude. The U.S. Army Women’s Museum, located at Fort Lee, Virginia, is the repository of over 1.5 million documents pertaining to the contributions of women to the U.S. Army from 1775 to the present. ...

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pp. 1-2

The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), created in 1942 and subsequently replaced the following year with the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), was to last for the duration of World War II “plus six months.” Very few women could have imagined at the time the profound impact their military service would have on generations of women to come. ...

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Brief History of the Women’s Army Corps in World War II

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pp. 3-8

The role of American women changed profoundly during World War II. Large numbers of women entered the work force to fill positions left vacant by the tremendous number of men needed in the military. Although this was not the first time women worked in factories in large numbers (the same phenomenon occurred during World War I), the type of jobs and the nature of the work they did changed significantly. ...

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Captain McGraw’s Career

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pp. 9-17

Charlotte McGraw was born in Texas in 1915. Not much is known about her early years when she lived in Abilene, Texas, with her parents. She attended Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene and then Southwest Texas State Teachers College (now known as Texas State University–San Marcos). ...

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Photographic Art of the 1930s and 1940s

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pp. 18-22

In the years leading up to World War II, photography was growing as a commercial and artistic medium. Trends in art from that era may have influenced Captain McGraw’s own work. She worked as a photographer for the movie studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) before the war and would have been very familiar with the glamour of Hollywood. ...

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The Impact of McGraw’s Photos on the Home Front

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pp. 23-25

The impact of Captain McGraw’s work cannot be overstated. As the army’s only official photographer of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps and then the Women’s Army Corps, Charlotte McGraw’s work was very important during World War II and has served as a wonderful historical record of the era. ...

Captain McGraw’s Work

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pp. 26-39

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Army Women “Free a Man to Fight”

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pp. 26-34

This section shows details of the numerous jobs WACs had in the three branches of army service: Army Service Forces (ASF), Army Ground Forces (AGF), and Army Air Forces (AAF). Captain McGraw meticulously followed her mission’s orders by showing the variety of jobs women held and the fact that their military occupations were often closely matched to take advantage of their civilian skills. ...

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Modern and Ancient Worlds Meet in War

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pp. 35-46

The photographs in this section capture the irony of the modern world meeting the ancient world in wartime. The photos include scenes from North Africa, China, and the Philippines. They are sorted by geographical location and then grouped by their relationship to one another. ...

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People in Context: The Art of the Portrait

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pp. 47-58

Portraits aren’t just about the person. They are about where that person lives and what he or she lives for. Portraits also tell a story about the subjects’ environment, what moves them, or how they relate to others. Captain McGraw’s work prior to entering the army was as a professional “glamour” photographer for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, ...

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Ordinary Life During War

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pp. 59-68

The pictures in this section invite the reader to examine the unique architecture of North Africa, China, and the Philippines. These photographs were chosen and grouped by geographical region first and then by the street scenes unique to the era. They are interesting because one can tell how Captain McGraw imagined certain features of the pictures. ...

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Photographs of Compassion and Assistance

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pp. 69-75

These photos show the very human face of patriotic sacrifice. Captain McGraw took them as part of her mission to help recruit female medical technicians in the Women’s Army Corps. By showing images of the women serving in the army taking care of soldiers wounded in battle, the WAC hoped that women who were already trained would join. ...

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Capturing Images of the Damage to the Landscape

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pp. 76-82

Some images portray two almost opposite things at once. In these images, we see both the uncommon damage wrought by war as well as by common human activity. Some photos show WACs conversing and socializing as if they could be anywhere—except in a war zone! ...

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Conclusion: Reflections on Her Work

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pp. 83-86

Captain McGraw saw herself in holistic terms. She would not have used that term; however, it is clear from her collection that she didn’t isolate her artistic work from the rest of her life. As the official Women’s Army Corps photographer during World War II, it seems evident that she saw herself as an artist, as a member of her family, and as an American soldier. ...

Appendix: Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps and Women’s Army Corps Military Ranks

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pp. 87-88

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About the Authors

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pp. 89-104

Françoise Barnes Bonnell, PhD, is the director of the U.S. Army Women’s Museum in Fort Lee, Virginia. She has taught history at numerous colleges and universities. She recently retired from the U.S. Army Reserve as a lieutenant colonel. ...

Back Cover

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p. 105-105

E-ISBN-13: 9780826353412
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826353405

Page Count: 112
Publication Year: 2013

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • McGraw, Charlotte T., 1915-.
  • United States. Army. Women's Army Corps -- Pictorial works.
  • United States. Army. Women's Army Corps -- History.
  • Women photographers -- United States -- Biography.
  • War photographers -- United States -- Biography.
  • United States. Army -- Photographers -- Biography.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Photography.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Women -- United States.
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