WM History




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.


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 - Women's Armed Services Integration Act of 1948 authorized 100 regular Women Marine officers, 10 warrant officers, and 1,000 enlisted in a gradual build-up over a two year period with regular candidates coming from Reserve Women Marines on active duty or those with prior service not on active duty. (MC Res Hist, pp. 121-122).

1948 - Colonel. Katherine A. Towle first Director of Women Marines

1948 - First eight enlisted women were sworn in as regular Marines

1949 - The 3d Recruit Battalion at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island was reactivated for training non-veteran Women Marines. Women Marine recruits began arriving at Parris Island to form the first platoon of 50 Women Marine regulars to take a six—weeks' training course.

1949 - First black female Marines enlisted

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. The uniform was patterned after the full dress uniform of Marine officers. It will be worn by women Marina officers at all state and diplomatic functions. (ANAF Journal, 18 Nov 1950, p. 310).

1952 - On the ninth anniversary of the establishment of the Marine Corps Women's Reserve, the Lady Leathernecks participated for the first time in color raising ceremonies at the Marine Barracks, Washington, D. C. (ANAF Journal, 16 Feb 1952, p. 735).

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, 36, 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.

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

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. She was assigned to U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam combat operations center in Saigon.

1968 - Lieutenant Colonel Jenny Wren was the first woman Marine to attend Command and Staff College

1970 - 1stLt Patricia Murphy was named the first woman Marine certified military judge.

1978 - Marine Corps Col. Margaret A. Brewer becomes a brigadier general - the first female general in the Corps’ history.

1986 - Rhonda LeBrescu Amtower was the first enlisted woman Marine to attend and graduate the Defense Language Institute where she studied Mandarin Chinese. After being commissioned she was the first and the only female attaché at the U. S.Hong Kong consulate from 86-88

1992 - Gunnery Sergeant Melody Naatz became the first female to don the flat brimmed "Smokey Bear" as a Drill Instructor

1995 - Gilda Jackson was the first African American female Marine Colonel and the first woman to command the Naval Aviation Depot, Cherry Point, NC

1996 - Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Carol Mutter becomes the first female three-star officer in the U.S. Armed Forces as she assumed the position of Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower and Reserve Affairs at Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C.

1997 - 1st group of women Marines complete male/female integrated Marine Combat Training Course at Camp Geiger, NC, with LCpl Melissa Ohm as honor graduate.

1997 - Gunnery Sgt. Patricia Crimmins became the first female Marine to earn the drum major military occupational specialty (MOS 5521)

1999 - Sgt. Kelly L. Anderson is the first female to successfully complete Designated Marksman School at Fleet Combat Training Center Dam Neck, Virginia.

2001 - Capt Vernice Armour becomes the first African American Pilot

2002 - Sergeant Jeannette L. Winters the first U.S. servicewoman to die in the war on terrorism.

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 when an improvised explosive device detonated near their convoy vehicle in Fallujah, Iraq

2006 - After enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1974, Angela Salinas works her way through the ranks to make history by becoming the first female Hispanic brigadier general in the Corps.

2006 - Major Megan McClung becomes the first female Marine Officer to be killed in Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

2009 - All-Female Marine Team Conducts First Mission in Southern Afghanistan

2011 - Brig. General. Loretta E. Reynolds is the first female Marine commander of the Corps' iconic training ground for recruits at Parris Island, S.C.

2012 - First female Marines take Combat Leadership Test

2013 - SgtMaj. Angela Maness made history as the first female to assume the duties of senior enlisted Marine at Marine Barracks Washington, a job known as the “oldest post of the Corps.”

Today - Women serve in 93 percent of all occupational fields and 62 percent of all billets. Women constitute 7.11 percent of the Corps end strength and are an integral part of the Marine Corps.

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.

According to the 2012 demographic report women make up 7.11% of the Marine Corps. They are integrated into nearly all Military Occupational Specialties with the exception of offensive combat. They serve globally and proudly carry on the traditions of those first trailblazers as they continue to open doors for future Marines to follow.