By Rosa Osborn
In 2010, as a warrant officer and several years in the Marine Corps, I thought I knew it all. I knew the history of the Marine Corps. We all do. I didn’t discover just how little I knew until 2010 while attending the WMA Convention in Denver. I was not only amazed but frankly shocked by the lack of information or lack of credit for contributions women Marines have made throughout the years.
During that WMA convention and still, on active duty, I saw the history of Women Marines through uniforms and items displayed. I had no idea of the great contributions we, as women Marines had made. Unfortunately, being on active duty, I went back to what we all do while on active duty; take care of
family, take care of work and pray for some time off.
I would spend another 7 years in the Marine Corps before I would retire. After I retired, I joined a local WMA chapter and again I was reminded of our history. Members of that chapter were women Marines from Korean War to the present. I was reminded again of how little we were educated about the contributions made by the trailblazer that went before us. I was reminded of how much I learned through the uniforms on display back in 2010. I started researching and that’s when my passion took hold. I would collect our uniforms to preserve our history and education others through our uniforms. My private collection, however, would be different. I wanted to preserve not only the history of our uniforms but the history of the Marines that wore those uniforms. History regardless of years in the Marine Corps.
There is such a misconception that our service doesn’t matter if we didn’t retire from the Marine Corps, or that our service doesn’t matter if we didn’t deploy. That simply isn’t true. I truly believe that misconception is from the lack of education and the lack of praise that is given to our service. We all have contributed to the service of our beloved Marine Corps.
How did I start my private collection? Requesting for uniform donations. Yes, I would ask if there was anyone who would like to donate their uniforms. I indicate that this was a private collection and separate and apart from WMA. I would ask for pictures of the Marine who wore the uniform and a bio to go with
that picture. My first uniform was given to me by Lidwine Comeau.
When I received her “blue” dress blue uniform I fell in love with her uniform and wanted more. This was the start of my uniform collection. I would ask for donations but also invest my own money in acquiring uniforms sold on different sites. I actively would seek uniforms out on auctions. I am serious about preserving our history. If you would like to donate your uniforms, please reach out to [email protected] or 910548-1537.
My Notable Uniforms
The following are some of the most notable uniforms in my
- WWII Winter Service uniform with a ruptured duck patch that belonged to Master Technical Sergeant Katherine Gail. “Ruptured Duck” was given to those members of the U.S. military who were honorably discharged during WWII. Because this uniform was purchased no other information is known on who wore this uniform. This service uniform has notched lapels, and four (actual) slash pockets, sleeves finished with traditional “Marine Cuffs” and is fastened by three dull-bonze standard Marine buttons. The Master Technical Sergeant rank insignia does not display cross rifles.
WWII Summer Service uniform (originally Plisse Crepe) was also purchased and no historical information is known. The service summer uniform consisted of two-piece including a blouse and skirt made of green and white striped material, originally Plisse Crepe but later replaced by Seersucker. (A thin, puckered, all-cotton fabric, commonly striped and very common for summer clothing.)
WWII Summer Service uniform (two-piece made of green and white striped material seersucker) This uniform is a mixed batch of two uniforms that were purchased – skirt and blouse don’t match. Unfortunately, still looking for this uniform.
WWII Summer White Dress uniform. This uniform originally belonged to D.T. Tucker. This uniform was purchased, and no additional history/information is known. The summer dress uniform was optional for enlisted Women Marines but mandatory for officers. Consisting of a white blouse and skirt in twill for enlisted, and white twill or palm beach white for officers, the jacket was modelled on the summer service uniform blouse, open-necked and with short sleeves, four patch pockets, each closing with a top flap fastened initially by a single white button and later by a single gilt eagle/anchor button.
This uniform was discontinued in 1952 for enlisted female Marines because male enlisted Marines had no equivalent uniform. This uniform was discontinued for all women Marines in 1958.
WWII Utility (Sateens) and the workout rompers (peanut suit) were purchased as a set. And although purchased, I discovered that these uniforms were worn by 1 st Sergeant Frances A. Curwen (Bilski), Retired. Information was discovered from, A History of the Women Marines 1946-1977. Frances Curwen has an impressive history. Please stay tuned for all her history in future articles. The utility uniform was not a mandatory requirement; however, it was available to individual women Marines who had “dirty” jobs like motor transport (MT). Made of lightweight sage green cotton and modelled on the men’s three-pocket HBT Utility coat, it had three patch pockets, two lower and one top left, the same as the man’s, with the black EGA/USMC pocket stencil.
The exercise suit or “peanut suit” as it was commonly referred to, due to the light brown color and crinkled appearance, consisted of a one-piece “bloomer outfit” (shorts and blouse) in brown and white striped Seersucker material, buttoned down with six composite buttons. The suit has a single open-topped breast pocket on the left front panel. The suit was short-sleeved and had drawstring cuffs on the shorts (for modesty). Later production suits had a removable skirt, made from the same material as the suit and buttoned down the front with seven composite buttons.
Still MISSING from my collection is the original exercise WWII workout green and white dress with shorts worn under the dress. The shorts had a half elasticated waistband and were fastened on the left with two white bone buttons. This uniform was similar of the white striped seersucker and therefore changed to the
brown “peanut suit”.Although my collection also includes a WWII Utility Overall, it is not serviceable. It is torn (would like to acquire another one). This uniform was donated. More on the history of who wore it to follow. Overalls have two rear open-top patch pockets and are fastened at the back by four composite buttons. This was later changed to four-buttons side fastening on the left side.
Headwear was usually the utility cap utility or a “Daisy Mae” hat made from the same sage green cotton. The hat was made from the same sage green cotton and had a six-panel crown with a stitch-reinforced brim and was usually worn with the brim turned up all around. Korean War – Vietnam War Era Dress Blue Uniform. Currently in my collection is an officer’s and enlisted. Women Marines did not have a dress blue uniform until 1952. During World War II and the seven years following, officers turned the winter uniform into a dress uniform by exchanging the khaki shirt to white and the khaki necktie to forest green. Enlisted WomenMarines had no comparable dress outfits. This uniform did not change from 1952 until 1977 when a new dress blue uniform was rolled out.
There is not information on the person wore the Korean War Service Uniform in my collection. Although donated, the person who donated this uniform did not have the history. In 1952, the service summer uniform was a one-piece dress uniform with its band at the waist had a matching long sleeve blouse.
In 1968 the long sleeve blouse with a skirt became available. Made of nylon-dacron-cotton. The dress, jacket, skirt, and cap had to match. The jacket had shoulders straps of the same material, each fastened by a single button. Buttons made of green compose with standard Marine eagle/anchor facing.
Vietnam War Era uniforms were donated; however, no information is known. The service summer uniform consisted of two pieces including a blouse and skirt made of a polyester-cotton, corded, green-and-white striped material cloth. The blouse, skirt, and cap matched. The jacket had shoulders straps of the same material, each fastened by a single button. Buttons made of green compose with standard
Marine eagle/anchor facing. In the following months with the assistance of WMA, will be featuring not only my uniforms but the history of that uniform and the history of who wore that uniform. If you are ready to part with your uniforms or have uniforms you would like to donate, please reach out. I would love to hear from you. You can contact me at [email protected] or 910-548-1537.
STILL LOOKING FOR
Here are a few items I am desperately seeking for my personal collection and although items might not be on the list, it doesn’t mean I have them. It might just be that I just don’t know of its existence. Please reach out if you have anything you may be able to donate.
MP arm strap
White summer long sleeve shirt/skirt uniform
Green shoulder epaulettes (shoulder boards) For rank
Green and white exercise suit
Vest, Alpaca Pile lined
Field jacket with aviation squadron patch
Summer service hat (green with and without white buttons)
Khaki and green (male style) 4-in-hand ties and
Khaki cotton shirt
All footwear for all uniforms
Cap, machine operator
Cap, mess women
Culotte (shorts) utility
White summer long sleeve shirt/skirt uniform
Winter service uniform
Summer service uniform
Blue sweater for blue utility
Check Out the other pictures from the collection
Editor Note: Rosa Osborn was recently named at the WMA 2022 Julia Hamblet Awardee.
Julia E. Hamblet Award goes to our own, Rosa Osborn, for her extraordinary efforts in the preservation of the history of women’s Marine uniforms along with the history of those who wore them. She also has the distinction of being the first recipient who served as a “Warrant Officer” that reflects the historical legacy of Lotus Mort, one of the first female Warrant Officers in the Marine Corps, whose Memorial Fund supports this award.
This award is sponsored by the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation (MCHF) and the Women Marines Association (WMA) and will be presented to Rosa at the Annual MCHF Awards Dinner to be held on April 30, 2022 at the National Museum of the Marine Corps (NMMC). I hope that you will join me in congratulating Rosa for her outstanding efforts and for her continued support to WMA and our priority mission of preserving and promoting the history of women in the Marine Corps since 1918.Rhonda Amtower WMA Nationl President