More Than 100 Years of Women in the Corps
The year 2018 marked the centennial of women in the Corps. Let's celebrate the fewer and the prouder by learning about women in Marine Corps History.
Marine Corps photos by Sgt. John Martinez, Lance Cpl. Olivia G. Ortiz, and Sgt. Tyler Main.
Women in the Corps
The Marine Corps has a long and storied past with many milestones along the way. One major milestone came in 1918 when Opha Mae Johnson became the first female to enlist in the Marine Corps. Since then there have been numerous events to occur that show the importance of women in the Marine Corps.
In October of 1942, the Secretary of the Navy authorized the Marine Corps to create a Women's Reserve and accept applicants for commissions and enlistments. Colonel Ruth Cheney Streeter was named the first Director of Women Marine Reservists.
Women in the Marine Corps are not only known for the barriers they broke down, but also for acts of bravery. In 1953 Staff Sergeant Barbara Olive Barnwell became the first female to be awarded the Navy and Marine Corps medal for saving a fellow Marine from drowning in the Atlantic Ocean in 1952.
In 1949 the first African-American woman enlisted in the Marine Corps. Annie E. Graham of Detroit, Michigan was the first to enlist and the next day in New York City, Anne E. Lamb became the second. Both women reported to Parris Island on September 10, 1949 and went through boot camp together and were eventually stationed together at Headquarters Marine Corps. In 1965, Rose Franco became the first Hispanic woman to be promoted to Chief Warrant Officer.
High levels of leadership are not uncommon for female Marines throughout history. There have been many high ranking female Marines over the years but there are a few that stand out specifically. In 1953, Ruth Wood and Lillian Hartley were the first women to enter the warrant officer program. In 1960, Geraldine M. Moran became the first female Marine promoted to E-9, Master Gunnery Sergeant. A year later Bertha Peters Billeb became the first female Marine to be promoted to E-9, Sergeant Major.
Female Marines are seeing their roles expand much more recently. The Marine Corps has opened up all combat arms career fields to women. Although there are more opportunities, women still make up a very small percentage of these jobs, as well as the Marine Corps as a whole. There are approximately 14,000 female Marines which makes up about 7% of all Marines today. In the last five years alone female Marines have attended infantry training, both enlisted and officers, and have attended the School of Infantry on the west coast for the first time ever.
Female Marines are continuing to represent the Marine Corps and have great success even after their active duty service has come to an end. Sergeant Julia Watson, in 1998, became the first and only woman to win the National Individual Trophy (Daniel Boone Trophy) for rifle marksmanship since the competition began in 1902. She also won the NRA Service Rifle Championships three times while on active duty, and is currently the only woman to have won the competition. Also, Chief Warrant Officer Roxanne Conrad (Ret.) was the first woman ever to earn the International Distinguished Shooting Badge which is the highest shooting badge a Marine can wear out of the 52 shooting badges authorized for wear in uniform.
The year 2018 marked the centennial of women in the Corps. Let's celebrate the fewer and the prouder! The history of women in the Marine Corps is full of broken barriers and major accomplishments. There are undoubtedly many more accomplishments to come as the female Marines of today will continue to build upon the foundation and legacy of Marines that came before them.
Female Marine Timeline
- 1918 - Pvt Opha Mae Johnson becomes the first woman to enlist in the Marine Corps
- 1942 - Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox authorized the Marine Corps to create a Women's Reserve and accept women applicants for commissions and enlistments
- 1942 - Approval by Commandant Lt General Thomas Holcomb for the formation of the Marine Corps Women's Reserve
- 1943 - Colonel Ruth Cheney Streeter becomes the first Director of Women Marine Reservists
- 1943 - Captain Anne Lentz, first commissioned officer
- 1943 - Pvt Lucille McClarren first enlisted woman
- 1943 - First class of 71 officer candidates
- 1943 - First class of 722 enlisted Women Reserves
- 1943 - First class of enlisted graduated and report to active duty. Approximately 525 women entered every 2 weeks for courses that averaged about 4 weeks
- 1943 - First class of officer candidates graduate and report to duty. Classes averaged about 70 candidates, began every month and lasted about eight weeks
- 1944 - Overseas bill for women in the Naval services signed by the president
- 1945 - First detachment of five officers and 160 enlisted women Marines arrive in Hawaii for duty
- 1945 - Recruiting of WR's limited to replacement for normal attrition
- 1945 - All recruiting stopped and plans for gradual demobilization
- 1946 - Approval by CMC Women's Reserve Policy Board recommendation for retention of small number of women on duty to serve as trained nucleus for possible mobilization emergencies
- 1946 - Original terminal date set for Women's Reserve. All WR units disbanded and most women returned to civilian life
- 1948 - First group of three wartime WR officers sworn into the regular Marine Corps
- 1948 - Colonel Katherine A. Towle first Director of Women Marines
- 1948 - First eight enlisted women were sworn in as regular Marines
- 1948 - The Women's Armed Services Integration Act of 1948
- 1949 - Women Marine recruits began arriving at Parris Island to form the first platoon of 50 Women Marine regulars
- 1949 - The first African-American woman, Annie E. Graham of Detroit, Michigan, enlisted in the Marines. On the following day, Ann E. Lamb joined at New York City
- 1950 - Annie L. Grimes of Chicago, who was destined to become a chief warrant officer later in her career, joined and went to boot camp in February 1950
- 1950 - The evening dress uniform for Marine Corps women officers was introduced for the first time by Colonel Katherine A. Towle at the Marine Corps birthday ball at the Sail Loft, Naval Gun Factory, Washington, D. C.
- 1953 - Colonel Katherine A. Towle, Director of Women Marines, became the first woman line officer to retire from U. S. military service on reaching the mandatory retirement age of 55
- 1953 - Lieutenant Colonel Julia E. Hamblet became the new Director of Women Marines, succeeding Colonel Katherine A. Towle
- 1953 - Staff Sergeant Barbara Olive Barnwell First female Marine to be awarded the Navy and Marine Corps medal for heroism for saving a fellow Marine from drowning in the Atlantic Ocean in 1952
- 1953 - Ruth Wood and Lillian Hartley were the first women to enter warrant officer program
- 1960 - First woman Marine is promoted to E-9 - Master Gunnery Sergeant Geraldine M. Moran
- 1961 - The first woman Marine is promoted to Sergeant Major (E-9) - Bertha Peters Billeb
- 1964 - Lieutenant Colonel Barbara J. Bishop succeeds Colonel Margaret M. Henderson as Director of Woman Marines
- 1965 - The Marine Corps assigns the first woman to attache duty. Later, she is the first woman Marine to serve under hostile fire
- 1965 - Rose Franco the first Hispanic woman promoted to Chief Warrant Officer
- 1967 - Master Sergeant Barbara Jean Dulinsky first woman Marine to serve in a combat zone in Vietnam
- 1968 - Lieutenant Colonel Jenny Wren was the first woman Marine to attend Command and Staff College
- 1970 - 1st Lt Patricia Murphy was named the first woman Marine certified military judge
- 1970 - CWO2 Annie Grimes became the first African-American to retire with 20 years of service
- 1972 - Lance Corporal Brenda Hockenhull the first Woman Marine graduate a 16-week Test Instrument Repairman Course
- 1972 - Major Jane Wallis became the first woman Executive Officer at H&HS Squadron in El Toro
- 1972 - Lt Catherine A. Kocourek Genovese was the first female battalion adjutant at Weapons Training Battalion at Quantico. She was the first female officer to rate as a sharpshooter
- 1973 - Sgt Major Bertha Billup was the first woman Marine to retire with 30 continuous years
- 1973 - Elizabeth A Aitel, Oboist, first female to join the Marine band
- 1973 - Colonel Mary E Bane, first female to become Commanding Officer of Headquarters and Service Battalion, Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton
- 1974 - Private First Class Regina T. Musser, first woman Marine tank mechanic
- 1974 - LCpl Harriet F. Voisine becomes the first female military policewoman
- 1974 - 2nd Lt Debra J Baughman first female officer in the military police field
- 1974 - Capt Shirley Bowen first female to graduate from the 34 week Advanced Communication Officer Course
- 1974 - Woman Officer School integrated into male companies. 1st Lt Catherine A. Kocourek Genovese first female officer to design and teach her own course of instruction
- 1974 - Disestablishment of the position of Sergeant Major of Women Marines
- 1975 - Technical Sergeant Helen Hannah was recalled to active reserves in 1947 for 6 mos and continued to serve as a reservist until she retired with 32 years
- 1975 - First female instructor at the Personnel and Administration School in Quantico, Karen Pressler
- 1975 - 1st Lt Diane S George was the first female to be assigned to inspector-instructor staff of a all reserve male unit
- 1975 - PFC Cathy Smith is the first female to attend the water supply and plumbing course at Camp Lejeune
- 1975 - 1st Sgt Margaret Reiber was the first female to integrate an all male security force at Camp Lejeune
- 1976 - Pvt Beth Ann fraser was the first female Marine to attend Army Airborne School at Ft Benning, GA
- 1977 - PFC Katie Dixon becomes the first female jet mechanic
- 1977 - Rhonda LeBrescu Amtower was the first enlisted woman Marine to attend and graduate the Defense Language Institute where she studied Mandarin Chinese
- 1977 - GySgt Mary Vaughn was the first African American to become a Warrant Officer
- 1978 - Marine Corps Col. Margaret A. Brewer becomes a brigadier general - the first female general in the Corps' history
- 1978 - Lt Col Jane Wallis is the first female G1 at FMFPAC at Camp Smith Hawaii
- 1978 - PFC Myra Jepson first female Marine honor guard at the White House
- 1980 - Sergeant Major Ellie Judge first female Sergeant Major of MCB Camp Pendleton
- 1980 - Seven female midshipman were the first to be commissioned into the Marine Corps from U. S. Naval Academy
- 1980 - Sergeant Major Barbara A Farrell was the first female to be assigned to Assault Amphibian School Camp Pendleton
- 1981 - The Limited Duty Officer (LDO) program opened to females. Evelyn Potts was the first of two LDO's
- 1982 - First female rifle platoon led by Lt Marie Juliano
- 1984 - Colonel Elaine Albertson Chapman becomes the first female staff judge advocate
- 1986 - Rhonda LeBrescu Amtower after being commissioned, then Captain LeBrescu served as the first female Marine Attache serving at the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong
- 1988 - Brigadier General Gail Reals first female to command MCB Quantico, VA
- 1990 - SSgt Carmen Cole first female Motor Transport Maintenance Shop Chief 7th Motor Transport Maintenance Battalion, Camp Pendleton California
- 1990 - MGySgt Shalanda Raynor first female to achieve the rank of master gunnery sergeant in the combat camera occupation
- 1993 - CWO Carmen Cole was selected as a Warrant Officer becoming the first female in the Marine Corps to be a Motor Transport Maintenance Officer
- 1995 - Gilda Jackson was the first African American female Marine Colonel
- 1997 - Karen Fuller Brannen became the U.S. Marine Corps first female strike fighter pilot to earn "wings of gold."
- 1997 - 1st group of women Marines complete male/female integrated Marine Combat Training Course
- 1997 - Gunnery Sgt Patricia Crimmins became the first female Marine to earn the drum major military occupational specialty
- 1997 - Jennifer Lamb first woman attached to an infantry company
- 1999 - Sgt Kelly L. Anderson is the first female to successfully complete Designated Marksman School
- 2001 - Capt Vernice Armour becomes the first African American Pilot
- 2002 - Sergeant Jeannette L. Winters the first U.S. service woman to die in the war on terror
- 2003 - Capt Vernice Armour becomes the first African American female combat pilot with combat missions in Iraq
- 2005 - Cpl Ramona M. Valdez and Lance Cpl Holly A. Charette first women Marines killed in Iraq
- 2006 - Angela Salinas becomes the first female Hispanic brigadier general in the Corps
- 2006 - First Female Expeditionary Airfield Technician MOS 7011 to make it to the rank of MGySgt, Linda Field
- 2006 - Major Megan McClung becomes the first female Marine Officer to be killed in Iraq
- 2007 - Sgt Maj Barbara J. Titus first female sergeant major of Marine Corps Installations West, a command overseeing seven installations west of the Mississippi River
- 2008 - Capt. Elizabeth A. Okoreeh-Baah, the first female MV-22 Osprey pilot
- 2009 - All-Female Marine Team Conducts First Mission in Southern Afghanistan
- 2010 - Marine Corps helicopter pilot LtCol Alison J. Thompson becomes first woman commander of a U.S. Marine Corps heavy Marine helicopter squadron
- 2010 - Staff Sgt. Tricia McBride, the first female to receive the Advisor Training Group's stamp of approval to advise host nation forces in Afghanistan
- 2011 - Brigadier General Lori E. Reynolds first female Marine Commanding General of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island/Eastern Recruiting Region
- 2011 - First female Marine Commanding General of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island/Eastern Recruiting Region
- 2011 - First female Marine is selected by HQMC to serve as the Marine Corps Base Sergeant Major of Quantico, VA
- 2012 - Master Gunnery Sgt. Shalanda Raynor first female in the Marine Corps, in her military occupational specialty as chief of Combat Camera, to achieve the rank of Master Gunnery Sergeant
- 2012 - First female Marines take Combat Leadership Test
- 2013 - Brigadier General Lori E. Reynolds, first female Commanding General of a Marine Forces Command: U.S. Marine Corps Forces Cyber Command.
- 2013 - Lt Col Nicole A. Mann was selected in June 2013 as one of eight members of the 21st NASA astronaut class
- 2013 - Gunnery Sgt Robin Baker first female with this rank as a combat engineer
- 2013 - PFC Christina Fuentes Montenegro, PFC Julia Carroll, and PFC Katie Gorz become the first three female Marines graduate from the Marine Corps' enlisted infantry training course
- 2013 - Sergeant Major Angela Maness first female to assume the duties of senior enlisted Marine at Marine Barracks Washington
- 2013 - First female Marine is selected by HQMC to serve as the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Command Senior Enlisted Leader, SgtMaj Bonnie Skinner
- 2014 - Brig Gen Helen Pratt, USMC was the 1st female President of the Marine Corps University
- 2014 - Sergeant Major Angela Maness first female to become depot Sergeant Major of MCRD Parris Island
- 2015 - Col. Julie Nethercot, the first female commander of Officer Candidate School in Marine Corps history.
- 2016 - Colonel Wendy Goyette, first female Commanding Officer to command an Operational Forces Command and the first commander of Marine Corps Cyberspace Operation Group.
- 2016 - First female Marine Officers and Drill Instructors (7) permanently assigned to MCRDSD Depot /Western Recruiting Region to work within the male Battalions
- 2016 - Sergeant Major Lanette Wright, the first female sergeant major of a Marine Expeditionary Unit in Marine Corps history
- 2017 - First female armor officer 2nd Lt. Lillian R. Polatchek became the first woman to lead a Marine tank platoon
- 2017 - Marine PFC Maria Daum first female Marine to join the infantry through the traditional entry-level training process
- 2017 - Gunnery Sgt. Stacie Crowther the first female Assistant Drum Major for "The President's Own" United States Marine Band
- 2017 - First female Marine graduates from the Marine Corps' Infantry Officer Course
- 2017 - First female Marine Officer graduates from Amphibian Assault Officer School, Second Lt Mariah Klenke
- 2018 - Lieutenant General Lori E. Reynolds, first female Deputy Commandant of the Marine Corps: Deputy Commandant for Information.
- 2018 - First male-female integrated Marine Combat Training company on the West Coast
Opha Mae Johnson: First Female Marine. Public Domain.
Ruth Cheney Streeter: First Director of Women Marine Reservists. Public Domain.
Barbara Olive Barnwell: First female to be awarded the Navy and Marine Corps medal. Public Domain.
Annie E. Graham and Anne E. Lamb: First two African-American female Marines. Public Domain.
Rose Franco: First hispanic female Marine to be promoted to Chief Warrant Officer. Public Domain.
Ruth Wood: One of the first women to enter the warrant officer program. Public Domain.
Female Marines Timeline information provided by the Women Marine's Association.
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Written by David Ogden, Sgt. USMC '11-'16.
David was a Sergeant with the United States Marine Corps from 2011-2016. He is a combat veteran. He has worked at Marine Parents as a writer since he left the Marine Corps. He is currently in college and writes for the organization full-time. Click here to read more about the author.