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."
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.
To date servicewomen are still restricted from serving in the following positions:
Army: Infantry, armor, special forces, combat engineer companies, ground surveillance radar platoons, and air defense artillery batteries.
Air Force: Pararescue, combat controllers and those units and positions that routinely collocate with direct ground combat units.
Navy: Submarines, coastal patrol boats, mine warfare ships, SEAL (special forces) units, joint communications units that collocate with SEALs, and support positions (such as medical, chaplain, etc.) collocated with Marine Corps units that are closed to women.
Marine Corps: Infantry regiments and below, artillery battalions and below, all armored units, combat engineer battalions, reconnaissance units, riverine assault craft units, low altitude air defense units, and fleet anti-terrorism security teams.
Coast Guard: None.