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.
One of the oldest WACs, Gerda Thomas was born in Germany 1897 and was past the stated enlistment age of 45 years. Before the war she vacationed in America and decided to immigrate. She then operated a cross country ski school in upstate New York and became a citizen in 1935.
Thomas had done photographic work for the AGFA Film Corporation in Germany, and in the WAC, attended a specialist school for training as an X-Ray technician. She was assigned to the Wakeman General Hospital at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. After the war, she remained in WAC service until 1948.