During the 1930s, Oveta Hobby was an editor for the Houston Post. In June 1941, she was appointed head of the Women's Activities Section of the U.S. Army to coordinate matters concerning the wives and dependents of army personnel. She then became director of the subsequent Women's Interest Section, War Department Bureau of Public Relations.
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hobby was asked to head a task force to determine how a possible volunteer women's corps could assist the army. Chief of staff General George C. Marshall and Secretary of War Henry Stimson supported her work, and after Hobby recommended establishment of the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC), Marshall asked her to command it.
Hobby had to overcome numerous problems, such as lack of funds and supplies and lack of cooperation from other army organizations, such as the engineers. Hobby and staff members drew barracks plans and attempted to redesign the standard-issue WAAC uniform to be more appealing to women, but the Quartermaster Corps rejected the design as too wasteful of cloth. Hobby was successful, however, in securing equal pay for women. In July 1943, the WAAC received full army status, and "Auxiliary" was dropped from the name, making it the Women's Army Corps (WAC). Hobby also oversaw the integration of female African American officers. Hobby was the first woman colonel in the U.S. Army.
During Hobby's tenure, the number of jobs approved for WACs expanded from 54 to 239. Hobby traveled to Europe and Africa to inspect WAC units, and she traveled with Eleanor Roosevelt to England to review Great Britain's women's auxiliary forces. Hobby's WACs proved their competence doing military work that freed men for frontline service.
Hobby resigned her post in the summer of 1945 and was hospitalized for exhaustion. Among her many honors, she was presented the Distinguished Service Medal, the first woman to receive this highest noncombat award.
Hobby continued to support civil rights and humanitarian issues. A lifelong Democrat, Hobby nonetheless backed Dwight D. Eisenhower for president, and in 1953 he named her the first secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. She resigned the position in 1955 and returned to help her husband with the Houston Post. Hobby died in Houston, Texas, on 16 August 1995.
Elizabeth D. Schafer
Allen, Ann. "The News Media and the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps: Protagonists for a Cause." Military Affairs 50 (April 1986): 77–83.; Clark, James A., with Weldon Hart. The Tactful Texan: A Biography of Governor Will Hobby. New York: Random House, 1958.; Shire, Al, compiler and ed. Oveta Culp Hobby. Houston, TX: W. P. Hobby, 1997.; Treadwell, Mattie. The Women's Army Corps. Washington, DC: Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1954.