Since 1918, women have answered the call to serve proudly in the United States Marines and the role of women in the Marines has evolved and expanded. All Women Marines can look forward to the future proudly, while never forgetting the women who made this future possible.
In 1918, the Secretary of Navy allowed women to enroll for clerical duty in the Marine Corps. Officially, Opha Mae Johnson is credited as the first woman Marine. Johnson enrolled for service on August 13, 1918; during that year some 300 women first entered the Marine Corps to take over stateside clerical duties from battle-ready Marines who were needed overseas. The Marine Corps Women's Reserve was established in February 1943. June 12th, 1948, Congress passed the Women's Armed Services Integration Act and made women a permanent part of the regular Marine Corps.
In 1950, the Women Reserves were mobilized for the Korean War and 2,787 women served proudly. By the height of the Vietnam War, there were about 2,700 women Marines served both stateside and overseas. By 1975, the Corps approved the assignment of women to all occupational fields except infantry, artillery, armor and pilot/air crew. Over 1,000 women Marines were deployed in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990-1991.
Private Minnie Spotted-Wolf of Heart Butte, Montana, enlisted in the Marine Corps Women's Reserve in July 1943. She was the first female American Indian to enroll in the Corps. Minnie had worked on her father's ranch doing such chores as cutting fence posts, driving a two-ton truck, and breaking horses. Her comment on Marine boot camp "Hard but not too hard."
Women Marine Milestones
- 1918 --Pvt. Opha Mae Johnson becomes the first woman to enlist in the Marine Corps Reserve
- 1943 --Colonel Ruth Cheney Streeter first Director of Women Marine Reservists
- 1943 --Captain Anne Lentz, first commissioned officer
- 1943 --Private Lucille McClarren first enlisted woman
- 1945 --first detachment of women marines arrives in Hawaii for duty
- 1948 --Colonel. Katherine A. Towle first Director of Women Marines
- 1961 --The first woman Marine is promoted to Sergeant Major (E-9).
- 1965 --The Marine Corps assigns the first woman to attachÚ duty. Later, she is the first woman Marine to serve under hostile fire.
- 1978 --Colonel Margaret A. Brewer was the first woman Marine general officer
- 1979 --The Marine Corps assigns women as embassy guards.
- 1985 --Colonel Gail M. Reals, the first woman selected by a board of general officers to be advanced to brigadier general
- 1992 --Brigadier General Carol A. Mutter assumed command of the 3d Force Service Support Group, Okinawa, the first woman to command a Fleet Marine Force unit at the flag level
- 1993 --2d Lieutenant Sarah Deal became the first woman Marine selected for Naval aviation training
- 1993 --The Marine Corps opens pilot positions to women.
- 1994 --Brigadier General Mutter became the first woman major general in the Marine Corps and the senior woman on active duty in the armed services
- 1995 --The first female Marine pilot pins on Naval flight wings.
- 1996 --Lieutenant General Mutter became the first woman Marine and the second woman in the history of the armed services to wear three stars
- Today --Women serve in 93 percent of all occupational fields and 62 percent of all billets. Women constitute 6.2 percent of the Corps end strength and are an integral part of the Marine Corps.
This is but a brief history of Women Marines to learn more please visit the following links. To add to a oral history of the Women Marines, become a member of the Women Marines Association and add your story and memories to our member's forums.