Marines First Accepted Women Enlistees 96 Years Ago


Marine Reservists (F) pose for a photograph at Headquarters, Marine Corps, Washington D.C., 1918. Marine Corps Women’s Marine Reserve/Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections/Flickr
 

By luck of being the first person in a line of 305 women waiting to enlist, Opha Mae Johnson of Kokomo, Indiana became the first woman to join the Marines in 1918. The Marines were looking to fill office and clerical roles in the States while all battle-ready male Marines were shipped to the frontlines of World War I. To help fill the vacancies, the Marines Corps opened enlistment to women for the first time–two years before women could even vote!

Opha Mae Johnson Wikimedia
 

Looking trim in their new uniforms are (left to right) Private First Class Mary Kelly, May O’Keefe, and Ruth Spike. The newly recruited Marines posed at Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C. Marine Corps Women’s Marine Reserve/Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections/Flickr
 

Swearing In – New York Recruiting Office, 17 August 1918 Violet Van Wagner, Marie S. Schleight, Florence Wiedinger, Isabelle Balfour, Janet Kurgan, Edith Barton, and Helen Constance Dupont are sworn in as privates by Lieutenant George Kneller in New York. The women are shown wearing the standard-issued men’s blouse, prior to the creation of the women’s uniform. Mrs. Dupont and Miss Kurgan are sisters. Marine Corps Women’s Marine Reserve/Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections/Flickr
 

Women Marines post recruiting posters on a wall in New York City. From left to right, they are, Privates Minette Gaby, May English, Lillian Patterson, and Theresa Lake. Marine Corps Women’s Marine Reserve/Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections/Flickr
 

The Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was officially established in 1943. Five years later Congress passed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, making women a permanent part of the Marine Corps.

U.S. Marines recruitment poster, 1915

 

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