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Remembering an early pioneer

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – In high school, you likely sat at your desk with an oversized history book opened up to either the Civil War, World War I or some other event that helped shape this country’s history.

The history lessons taught to us were about the intense physical and political struggles that changed our nation, as well as the important figures who played key roles.

We know the stories of the famous ones, but there are many stories not widely known about people who had significant impacts on history.

One such person is Maj. Charity Adams Earley. Her story is little known, but her influence on African-American women during World War II was impactful.

Earley became the first African-American woman to commission in the Woman’s Army Corps, or WAC.

She led the first and only black WACs on an overseas mission. She commanded a postal directory service out of England in 1944 and was tasked with ensuring mail was sorted and delivered to troops. With more than seven million American troops stationed across Europe, it was difficult to sort mail due to common names, secret assignments and wartime conditions. Yet she made sure that the security measures were strictly followed and mail was delivered.

During her time in and out the service, Earley encountered issues of racism and segregation on a daily basis. She always encouraged that her troops see past bigotry and worked to create solidarity between enlisted and officers.

Her efforts fostered the inclusion of blacks and women in military service.

In 1979, she was inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame. The Smithsonian Institution ranks her among the 100 most important black women in history.

Earley was a pioneer and a leader, however, she often said, “I just wanted to do my job.”