Dayton’s Charity Adams Earley: An Accomplished Historical Figure to be Remembered

Cover photo of Charity Adams Earley from Wikimedia Commons. She led the first unit of African American women that went overseas in World War II and called the city of Dayton home for most of her life

Mallory Boring 
Arts & Entertainment Staff Writer

During her lifetime, Dayton local Charity Adams Earley made many achievements despite the adversity she faced as an African American woman.

Earley was both an accomplished soldier and an educator. Though she grew up in South Carolina, Earley later called Dayton home.

After her death, she was buried in Woodland Cemetery right next to the University of Dayton’s campus. 

Earley first came to Ohio to attend college at Wilberforce University for undergraduate studies. While there, she was an active member of the university’s branches of the NAACP.

She graduated with a Bachelor in Arts in 1938 and spent the next four years teaching math and science at a junior high school in Columbia, South Carolina. When she was not teaching, Earley was enrolled in graduate courses at Ohio State University. 

In an attempt to expand military forces, the United States created the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) in 1942 which later came to be known as the Women’s Army Corps (WAC).

That July, Earley was accepted into the program and began training at Fort Des Moines in Iowa. She was promoted to major in 1943, which made her the highest-ranking female officer at the training center. 

A year later she was chosen to be the commanding officer of the 6888th unit, which was the WAC’s first unit of African Americans to go overseas.

Her unit was tasked with organizing mail for U.S. servicemen that had not been delivered. Earley’s unit worked in shifts to sort the mail and completed their assignment three months ahead of schedule.

Her work in the WAC earned her a promotion to the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1945, the highest rank possible for any woman in WAC.

She was discharged from the military in 1946, upon which the National Council of Negro Women Inc. honored her with a scroll of honor for her service. 

Having an accomplished military career, Earley returned to Ohio State University to complete her MA in psychology. 

After finishing her degree, Earley worked for Veterans Administrations in Cleveland. She went on to work in academic administration at Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State College in Nashville, TN and Georgia State College in Savannah, GA. 

In 1949, Earley got married and moved to Zurich, Switzerland where her husband was training to be a doctor. While there, she studied German until mastery and then proceeded to take two years’ worth of courses without pursuing a degree.

When Earley returned to the United States in the 1950s, she settled in Dayton, Ohio.

She became involved in her community serving on the board of directors of the Dayton chapter of the American Red Cross, the board of the Dayton Power and Light Company and the board of Sinclair Community College.

Earley was also the founder of the Black Leadership Development Program in 1982 and helped create what is now known as Parity Inc. in 2000. 

She was inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame in 1979 and was also honored for her contributions during WWII by the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in 1996.

The Smithsonian Institution considers her one of the 100 most influential black women in history. 

The work Charity Adams Earley did throughout her life paved the way for women and African Americans in the military. She also made important contributions to the Dayton community, which she called home until her death in 2002.

Early’s achievements make her not only a national but also a local hero. 

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