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WACs in Training, Teargas Drill, Ohio

Ruth Orkin

Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art

For her New York–based photojournalist work, photographer Ruth Orkin captured a group of officers-in-training for the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). Created at the outset of World War II as an auxiliary branch of the U.S. Army, the WAC was converted to active duty status in 1943. Serving as switchboard operators, mechanics, bakers, tailors, clerks, stenographers, and drivers, the members, called WACs, became the first women other than nurses to serve in the army.

In an earlier series, Orkin photographed train passengers waiting outside of Manhattan’s Pennsylvania Station. The image of a Black mother and child sitting on their luggage reflects the little-discussed history of segregated transportation in the northern United States. Through the 1940s, Penn Station officials assigned Black travelers seats in Jim Crow cars on southbound trains; in response, New Yorkers organized and the NAACP brought several successful lawsuits against complicit railroad companies.
MEDIUM Gelatin silver photograph
DATES 1950
DIMENSIONS 8 x 10 in. (20.3 x 25.4 cm)  (show scale)
INSCRIPTIONS "Ruth Orkin" "WAACs in training Ohio, early 1950's for Ladies Home Journal. They're being prepared for tear-gas room.
CREDIT LINE Gift of Mary Engel
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Ruth Orkin (American, 1921–1985). WACs in Training, Teargas Drill, Ohio, 1950. Gelatin silver photograph, 8 x 10 in. (20.3 x 25.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mary Engel, 2011.22.2. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: , 2011.22.2_PS9.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 2011.22.2_PS9.jpg., 2018
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RIGHTS STATEMENT © artist or artist's estate
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Ruth Orkin (American, 1921–1985). <em>WACs in Training, Teargas Drill, Ohio</em>, 1950. Gelatin silver photograph, 8 x 10 in. (20.3 x 25.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mary Engel, 2011.22.2. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: , 2011.22.2_PS9.jpg)