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(Exeter, N.H.) - U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen presented the family of Frederica McAfee Richardson with the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation's highest civilian honor, today in Exeter. Richardson served as a Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) during WWII, where she flew non-combat missions to ensure that more pilots were available for combat missions, thus playing a critical role in the nation's war efforts. 

"It's taken nearly 65 years to recognize the bravery and contribution that Frederica and the other WASPs made during the war, and I'm honored to present the nation's highest civilian honor to her husband, Artemas," said Shaheen. "Sadly, we lost Frederica six years ago today, but her incredible life and record of service will not be forgotten. On behalf of all the people of New Hampshire, we thank Frederica for her service."

"Frederica's service was not motivated by - and never raised within her any expectation of - medals or public praise.  She had a particular skill, the war effort had a particular need and, with that, she stepped forward.  It was a simple, easy, natural choice. Today's award is, of course, a tremendous honor.  I am very, very proud.  And I am proud on Freddie's behalf.   I know, however, that if Freddie was here, she would accept this award with genuine respect, but with great humility.  She would, I think, say that she and her sister WASPs were given the privilege to serve, and by their service freed brave men to go do great things," said Artemas Richardson, Frederica's husband of more than 50 years.

"I believe that my mother, while thinking for her part that she only did what she ought to have done, would defer her thoughts to the WASP pilots who died in service. Those were the women she always thought deserved lasting - everlasting - honors.  Those bright and vital women had lives ahead of them that were lost, and they had families that lost all the hopes that go with a daughter.  My mother had a full life ahead, and good memories behind.  Ample reward, she would say," said Captain Stanley Richardson, USN, son of Artemas and Frederica McAfee Richardson.

"As a woman, and particularly as a daughter of the WASP, I am grateful and proud to see this brave and dedicated group of women recognized with this highest award of honor.  These were spirited women.  Their spunk carried them through some very tough times throughout their lives and has been an inspiration for all who know their story," said Ann Richardson Howland, daughter of Artemas and Frederica McAfee Richardson.

Frederica McAfee was born Nov. 11, 1917, in Portland, Ore. She attended Pyongyang Foreign School in Korea, received her associate's degree from Pasadena Junior College, her Bachelor of Science degree in merchandising and personnel management from the University of Southern California in 1940 and earned her master's degree in home economics from Framingham State College in Massachusetts.

She was a systems service woman with IBM in California and New York until 1943 when she received her commercial pilot's license and served as a member of the 3rd class of WASPs. During World War II she towed targets for the 20mm and 90mm anti-aircraft fire and worked with some of the early aircraft drones.

Richardson taught home economics, comparative political systems and psychology at Westwood (Mass.) High School. She was a Paul Harris Fellow of the Rotary Foundation and traveled extensively in Japan, Australia, England, Canada, the United States and the Caribbean for Rotary International. She was a life member of the Herb Society of America; an honorary member of the American Legion Post, Danville; a member of Beta Gamma Sigma and the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

Approximately 1,000 women served as WASPs during World War II.  Shaheen was an original co-sponsor of a bill to award Congressional Gold Medals to the WASPs, which President Obama signed into law last year.