In 1943 artist Francis V. Kughler, Hudson River Museum Director H. Armour Smith and Women’s Army Corps recruiter Joanne Coates conceived a plan to encourage women of Yonkers to enlist in the army and honor their contribution. Every Yonkers woman who joined the WACs would have her portrait made in oil or pastel by Kughler.
Retta (Henrietta) Shaefer was not the first in her family to join the war effort. Her brother was also in the Army, Pvt. Ross Shaefer of the Signal Corps in the South Pacific and her sister, Cpl. Nancy Shaefer, was a WAC with the Intelligence Department of the Army Air Forces.
Most of the Yonkers WACs had full-time jobs before they enlisted. Retta Shaefer left a position at Prudential Life Insurance Company. Like other Army women, she stated that she hoped their efforts would help end the war sooner. No one hoped that more than people like her with family members fighting overseas.