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Tue, 07.12.1910

Frances Wills, Naval Officer born

Frances Wills

*The birth of Frances Wills is celebrated on this date in 1910.  She was a Black writer and naval officer. 

Frances Eliza Wills was born in Philadelphia; after high school, she attended Hunter College in New York City.  She was a Hunter College graduate who had worked with poet Langston Hughes while pursuing her MA in Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh.  She then worked at an adoption agency, placing children in adoptive homes.  In the Fall of 1944, the US Navy opened the doors of officer's candidacy to Black women, and She volunteered to attend the Naval Reserve Midshipmen's School at Smith College.

Along with Harriet Pickens, she became the first woman of African descent to become officers in the US Navy.  After her discharge, she wrote a book about her experiences called "Navy Blue and Other Colors" under her married name Francis Wills ThorpeShe was also active with the auxiliary of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  

Wills returned to work as Langston Hughes’ secretary and wrote out her experiences in the WAVES program later in life before passing away from breast cancer in the late 1990s.  Frances Ensign Wills died on January 18, 1998.  

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