By the late 1970s more wives of submarine crew members than ever before held dual jobs—maintaining the household and working outside their homes, often in professional careers. Although women never served aboard American submarines, conventional or nuclear, they had provided many of the volunteer services that formed the framework of military communities. That role became less common as other demands on their time increased. Whether a military wife worked at home, as a community volunteer, or at a paying job, she and her children were called "dependents."

Book, "Making a Home in The Navy", 31 July 1980

"The Navy Family Support Program has prepared this handbook because the Navy feels that its families are important." (Foreword to the book). By 1980, the Navy had established Family Service Centers to provide assistance that was formerly left to unofficial support groups. Family Service programs expanded to include help with health, finances, employment, and special education, as well as intervention in cases of spousal abuse or problems with drug and alcohol abuse.

Mimeographed Telephone Tree

Telephone trees run by volunteers, such as this 1970 mimeographed list from the submarine community at Groton, Connecticut, provided a direct open line among submarine wives. The phone trees were part of the network that brought news of absent husbands and fathers and provided a support system for separated family members. Submarine wives formed an especially close community. The women relied on each other when the men were away—and essentially unreachable—for weeks or months at a time, completely unable to communicate with their families. When fathers were away, mothers usually assumed head of household duties. But they were expected to relinquish that role upon their husbands' return, often a source of confusion and friction for parents and children alike.

Brown Grocery Bag: "Navy Wives. (It's the Toughest Job in the Navy)"

To attract, train, and retain people in the all-volunteer military with skills in modern technology, the armed forces by the mid-1970s began to acknowledge the contributions of spouses and families to the military mission. These efforts included slogans on commissary shopping bags, as well as more substantial action.


Panel Exhibit Board from Decommissioning Ceremony for Trepang
Wives and children often participated in the formal occasions associated with the boats on which their husbands and fathers served. Here is one of ten panels from an exhibit prepared by the wives of the crew for the decommissioning ceremony of USS Trepang (SSN-674).

Early 1980s Hot Dog Sale
Family members hold a hot dog sale to raise money for scholarships.

Baby Shower
At this 1967 baby shower in New London, Connecticut, most of the attendees tried to look as pregnant as the honoree.


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