WOSL, in existence since 1921, has accomplished much during the years since its inception. It still has tremendous potential for continuing community and veteran service, and for educating our young Americans.
From1914 to 1919, women all over America rallied to the aid of their country and volunteered for overseas service with the U.S. Army Expeditionary Forces of World War I. Over 11,000 Red Cross nurses served with the Army and Navy Nurse Corps. Others were assigned duties in the Ordnance, Quartermaster and Signal Corps, and the Treasury Department. The women served in France, Belgium, Italy, and the Balkans. When Armistice was declared, 90,000 American women had served. 348 had given their lives.
The women returned home and scattered across the country, most without the assistance and benefits afforded the male soldiers. The League was formed in May of 1921 to maintain friendships, to keep alive the patriotic spirit that had prompted their overseas service, and to provide aid—financial and otherwise—to these returning women. It was, in fact, a women’s self-help group. One of its major achievements was to help ex-servicewomen gain admittance to veterans’ hospitals. Working with Congress, they succeeded in getting hospitals to open their doors to women for needed treatment and domicilary care.
In 1946, membership was extended to World War II women. Over 350,000 women aided the military services overseas, and 200 women lost their lives in this service. WOSL members were responsible for lobbying Congress to grant veteran status to the civilians who served as Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASP). Membership in WOSL is open to all women, military and civilian, who have served overseas with our Armed Forces.
A strong sense of obligation to one another, to community, state and nation prevails throughout WOSL. WOSL is a registered NGO (non-governmental organization) with the United Nations, and WOSL representatives regularly attend briefings and meetings held at the UN for non-governmental organizations. It supports the Cathedral of the Pines, an all wars memorial with its Bell Tower honoring women’s service to our country. Other projects include the Hospitalized Veterans Writers Program, the Freedom Foundation Youth Leadership Seminars, scholarships for women pursuing studies emphasizing public service, and grants to members with special needs.
Organizationally, WOSL is divided into 2 geographical service areas throughout the continental United States. There are 11 individual units. The majority of the membership is World War II era, although in recent years more women from the Vietnam and Gulf Wars have become members. Still recruitment remains an issue as the World War II members are dying at a rate faster than younger members are being added.