UC Alum Was a Pioneer for Women During World War II
Lynn Ashley will take part in a special Nov. 9 ceremony on campus to honor faculty, staff and students who served their nation in times of peace and in times of war.
Date: 11/6/2006University of Cincinnati alumna Lynn Ashley of Forest Park was an original Rosie the Riveter and then a member of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC).
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Andrew Higley
Formed during World War II and numbering approximately 150,000, these were the first women other than nurses to serve in the U.S. Army at a time when women in the military were difficult to accept for the armed forces and the nation.
Ashley recalls immediately going to work after graduating from high school in Chicago in 1938 to support her mother and younger brother, William Haynes. At the age of 23, she began working as a riveter for Douglas Aircraft in Illinois in June of 1943 – a show of support for her brother, William, who was serving in the Army Air Corps and who one year later, would fly cover in his P-51 Mustang Fighter plane as the Allies invaded Normandy.
“I wanted to feel a part of his war experience and contribute to what he was doing,” she says. “I lived in a girls club, and people at Douglas came from all walks of life – sculptors, artists, beauty queens and the wives of soldiers who were serving overseas.”
But, after speaking out against talk of unionizing at Douglas Aircraft, Ashley felt it was time to make her exit, and she left Douglas the following December in 1943. That’s when she enlisted in the Army and was activated in the Army Air Corps in 1944, despite the protests of her brother who was serving overseas. “He said, ‘I don’t think you need to join the Army,’ and he was in England at the time, and it was before D-Day and he was not encouraging at all. But I had to support myself. I had to survive, so I enlisted.”
After undergoing military training in Georgia, Ashley was assigned to Carlsbad, New Mexico, where she worked at a bombardier training school. She was working with the highest technology in the military and was responsible for keeping track of aircraft and preparing schedules for three training sections. Her military career also including serving at Ellington Field, outside of Houston. That’s where she received her honorable discharge, two years after she enlisted.
After a brief stay in New York, Lynn returned to Chicago and looked up a beau, Edward Ashley, whom she had met at a New Year’s Eve party just before she was sent off to military training. Back in 1944, when Lynn went on active duty, he was on his way to India to serve in the U.S. Air Force. The couple married in 1946.
Edward was originally from Gary, Ind., so the new couple first settled there, but the work prospects weren’t good for Edward. Lynn saw there was a demand for workers at the Evendale General Electric plant, so the couple settled in Cincinnati and have lived here for the past 45 years. Their oldest son, Edward Jr., graduated from Bowling Green University and was commissioned by ROTC. Their oldest daughter, Ann Rice, graduated from UC with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Their youngest daughter, Rebecca, has a master’s degree in counseling from UC and their youngest son, Bill, served in the U.S. Air Force and now has his own business and is serving in the Army Reserve.
Lynn Ashley earned a bachelor’s degree in social psychology before earning her master’s degree and then her doctorate in educational foundations from UC in 1985. She works as an education consultant, counseling criminal offenders in educational settings – a career she has held for 28 years.
Over the past 15 years, Ashley has become active in speaking at and participating in activities to honor veterans. At a 10:30 a.m. ceremony to honor UC veterans on Thursday, Nov. 9, on McMicken Commons, Ashley will join in the formal presentation of a university proclamation to honor veterans of the UC community. The proclamation will be on permanent display in the ROTC building, located at the corner of Dennis Street and Corry Boulevard on UC’s campus. The entire University of Cincinnati community is invited to this special ceremony, as well as Tristate veterans and the general public.
“You can’t shake the impact that experience has on your life,” she says, of serving in the armed forces. “It confirmed for me the attributes I knew I had, and gave me the ability to pursue my beliefs more strongly than I had in the past.”
Ashley is a strong advocate in generating awareness to the roles that women have served in the military. She actively supports the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C.