Rogers, Edith Nourse


1936 TLS from the 6th woman elected to Congress, the powerful voice for veterans sponsored the GI Bill and helped create the Women’s Army Corps (WAC)

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Autograph ID: 6058
Condition: Very good, 2 folds, one has caused a blotting of her signature; pin holes at top left, minor wrinkling top right
Description: “(1881-1960) Massachusetts US Rep, 6th woman elected to Congress, 1st woman elected from Mass. Until 2012, she was the longest serving Congresswoman, surpassed by Barbara Mikulski. In her 35 years in the House, she was a powerful voice for veterans and sponsored the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (the “G. I. Bill”), the 1942 bill that created the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), and the 1943 bill that created the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). She married John J. Rogers, US Rep (R-MA) 1913-25, in 1907, and went with him to England and France to observe war conditions in 1917. Edith volunteered with the YMCA in London, the American Red Cross in France, and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington 1917-22, the start of her lifelong commitment to veterans. She witnessed conditions faced by women working with the US armed forces; except for a few nurses, they were civilians with no housing, food, insurance, medical care, legal protections, pensions, and no compensation for their families in cases of death. At the end of the War, her husband joined the American Legion, and she joined the Auxiliary. Harding appointed her an inspector of new veterans’ hospitals for $1/ year, renewed by Coolidge and Hoover. When her husband died in 1925, she was elected to his seat with 72% of the vote. Her term began June 30, 1925, serving 35 years (18 consecutive terms) until her death. Like her husband, she served on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and also the Civil Service and Veterans’ Affairs Committees. She chaired the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs 1947-48 & 1953-54, and was the 1st woman to preside as Speaker pro tempore over the House. She sponsored 1,200+ bills, over half on veterans or military issues. She voted for a permanent nurse corps in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and benefits for disabled and Korean War veterans. Rogers introduced a bill in early 1941 to establish a Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) in WW II to free men for combat duty by creating a cadre of noncombatant clerical workers. The bill languished but after Pearl Harbor, she met with Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall and with his strong support reintroduced the bill with an amendment giving women full military status. The amendment was resoundingly rejected but the unamended bill passed, and on May 14, 1942 President Roosevelt signed “An Act to Establish the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps” (PL 77-554). On July 30, 1942 PL 77-554 created the Navy’s WAVES and the Coast Guard’s SPARS and the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve soon followed. Rogers introduced a bill in Oct. 1942 to make the WAACs a formal part of the Army; Marshall declined to support it and it failed but in 1943, he asked Congress to give the WAAC full military status. Rogers and Oveta Culp Hobby, 1st Director of the WAACs, drafted a new bill; on July 1, 1943 FDR signed “An Act to Establish the Women’s Army Corps in the Army of the United States”, PL78-110. “Auxiliary” was dropped and on July 5, 1943, Hobby was commissioned a colonel in the new Women’s Army Corps. Of 628 Army specialties, women qualified for 406; in 1978 the WAC was discontinued with women assimilated into the rest of the Army. In 1944, she helped draft and co-sponsored the G. I. Bill, providing education and vocational training, low-interest loans for homes, farms, and businesses, and limited unemployment benefits for returning servicemen. FDR signed “The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act”, PL 78-346, June 22, 1944, allowing half of returning veterans to get higher education.

TLS on 10 x 8 “Congress of the United States” letterhead, Washington, October 17 1936, to a constituent, a veteran, sending a report on his case from the Veterans Bureau which will show the amount due him. Rep. Rogers has asked that his check be expedited and it will be in his hands soon. A fine example of her care and concern for veterans. She has added “(Mrs. John Jacob Rogers)” below her signature despite being in Congress for over 11 years.”
Type: Letter

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