American Women’s Voluntary Services (AWVS) enamel badge, WW2
A very large and handsome WW2 badge made for the American Women’s Voluntary Services (AWVS). The AWVS crest in enamel is clearly seen at the centre of the badge. This may have been an unofficial badge not issued as part of the regular AWVS uniform but could be worn with it. This link shows the cover of a 1941 edition of Look magazine with an AWVS woman in uniform, she wears a likeness of this badge on her tunic and the official AWVS badge on her cap ( www.2neat.com/magazines/images/LOOK-Magazine-1941-12-02.jpg ).
The AWVS was a wartime women’s voluntary organisation founded in 1940 by Mrs Alice McLean, who modelled her new organisation on the Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS) of Britain. It was declared to be "non-partsian, non-political and open to all women irrespective of race or religion provided they were loyal to the principles of the Government of the US". Members carried out a wide range of tasks that included motor corps, canteen corps, war savings work, child care for mother’s doing war work, mending/repair, decorating, office & clerical, etc. AWVS members also had a wide range of wartime careers they could choose from that opened up new opportunities for women to work in the trades. Overall, the contributions of such volunteer organisations were incalculable and made an enormous difference to the war effort.
When the AWVS was formed, it was before the Pearl Harbour attack and America was not yet involved in the war but still isolationist at the time. At the time, public and official attitudes towards the formation of a women’s volunteer war organisation were cool to say the least. It was a far-sighted decision to set up the AWVS when she did and initially an uphill struggle with little support. Recruitment was slow at first but when America was drawn into war with Japan, the whole situation changed and suddenly there was a massive surge of enthusiasm for volunteers to join any war organisation. By December 1941 there were already 18,000 recruits to the AWVS rapidly rising to more than 350,000 across the US.
Here’s two links to images of an AWVS uniform. However, the colour has faded with time from it’s original grey-blue.
library.uncg.edu/dp/wv/results28.aspx?i=1865&s=8 (AWVS tunic).
(AWVS ‘legionnaire style’ cap).
The badge is made from die-stamped brass with three enamels (red, white & blue) and finished with a gilt plating. There is a long steel pin on ther reverse but no maker’s name or mark. It’s an unusually large badge, measuring 2 7/8” across x 1 7/8” down (about 72mm x 48mm).