CalVet closes Women’s History Month by remembering Mary Dunaway and Virginia Mae Days. These two women made tremendously positive impacts on the Veterans Home of California-Yountville, impacts that are felt throughout all of CalVet’s eight veterans homes today.
In October 1945, Dunaway toured the Yountville Home campus and came away with two ideas: to build a barracks for women veterans to live at the Home; and to build the Hostess House, where family members could stay while visiting their veteran kin.
An Army nurse during World War I, Dunaway knew many women nurses killed or wounded during the Great War. Yet, the second World War came and went before women received veteran status and access to benefits.
The California Federation of Women’s Clubs, of which she was a member, raised the $60,000 needed to build the Hostess House, which opened in 1950. She also spearheaded the drive to build the first women’s barracks at the Home, which she dedicated in June 1951, with the first women moving in on September 6, 1952.
Days, meanwhile, became the only woman to head CalVet, serving as its director from 1975 until 1981. In 1976, the State Department of Finance recommended closing the Yountville Home, which opened in 1884. Days argued not only to keep the Home, but to invest in it instead. She prevailed.
The state funded improvements to the Yountville Home. Between 1996 and 2013, seven more homes were added to create the Veterans Homes of California system of care – ranging from Redding in the north to Chula Vista in the south.
Also in 1977, Days created a task force to allow non-veteran spouses to live at the Yountville Home as well. The first couple moved in on May 8, 1978. Today, all eight homes provide similar housing arrangements.
Consequently, the achievements of Dunaway and Days benefitted veterans at the Yountville Home at the time, and their influences are felt throughout the entire Veterans Homes of California network today.
And, on April 1, 2021, the Yountville Home celebrates its 137th Founders Day.