In celebration of International Women’s Day (March 8) and Women’s History Month, Special Collections is highlighting its collections of trailblazing and pioneering women.
Helen Hull Jacobs (1908-1997) served as a commander in the U.S. Navy intelligence during World War II, one of only five women to achieve that rank in the Navy. Prior to her military career, Jacobs was a highly accomplished tennis player, winning four U.S. Open singles (1932–1935), three doubles (1932, 1934–1935), mixed doubles (1934) and Wimbledon (1936, singles) championships. She was ranked in the world’s top 10 from 1928 to 1940. In 1933, she became the first woman to break with tradition by wearing man-tailored shorts at Wimbledon.
In 1975, Jacobs donated four scrapbooks to Special Collections. The contents document the United States Naval Reserve (Women’s Reserve), better known as WAVES: Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, between 1943-1945. WAVES was the World War II women’s branch of the United States Naval Reserve. It was established on July 21, 1942 by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on July 30, 1942. This authorized the U.S. Navy to accept women into the Naval Reserve as commissioned officers and at the enlisted level, effective for the duration of the war plus six months. Enlisted recruits received training at the Bronx, NY campus of Hunter College.
Jacobs’ autobiography, Beyond the Game, was published in 1936. In 1947, she retired from tennis and embarked on a career as an author, a farmer and a clothing designer.