This is an informative illustrated history of women in the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) during World War One.
The history of the first women to serve in the Marine Corps is a fascinating record of the dedication and drive of American women during World War I. The purpose of this monograph is to tell the story of the small band of women who answered the Corps' call for volunteers in 1918 with patriotism and enthusiasm. Long the object of interest and curiosity by modem-day Marines, the women Marines of World War I now have a lasting and fitting memorial. The author. Captain Linda L. Hewitt, USMCR, is a native of the State of Washington and a graduate of Seattle University. She served on active duty from 1967 through 1974 and is presently a member of Senator Henry M. Jackson's staff.
A former Director of Women Marines, Colonel Jeanette I. Sustad, USMC (Ret.) originated the project of compiling data for a history of women Marines who served in World War I. In 1971, she asked various members of the Women Marines Association to interview surviving veterans throughout the country. A questionnaire designed to guide the interviewers as well as background information on the service of women Marines in the 1918-1919 period was developed by Lieutenant Colonel Pat Meid, USMCR. Lieutenant Colonel Meid, who authored the official history, Marine Corps Women's Reserve in World War II, originally published in 1964, accumulated considerable material on the earlier group of women Marines during her research. This was all made available to the author of this monograph.
The interviews conducted during 1971-1972, 29 in number, form a valuable archive of personal experiences of these pioneer women Marines. They have been used to supplement the official records which are sparse and elusive. Muster rolls of the time were checked exhaustively in compiling a roster of women who served, but it proved impossible to discover all the names making up the 305 women who were enlisted as Marine Corps Reserve (F). Much information was gleaned from contemporary magazine and newspaper articles, particularly from Leatherneck, Marine Corps Gazette, The Marine Magazine, Recruiter's Bulletin, and the New York and Washington daily newspapers. A small but useful collection of women Marine memorabilia, including photographs, letters, and clippings, was donated by various individuals as a result of publicity about the project.
Legend has it that the first woman Marine was Lucy Brewer who supposedly served, disguised as a man, on board the frigate Constitution in the war of 1812. While there is no evidence that Miss Brewer ever wore a Marine uniform there can be no question about Opha Johnson, who on 13 August 1918 enrolled in the Marine Corps to become America's first woman Marine. Her enlistment was a reflection of the dramatic changes in the status of women wrought by the entry of the United States into World War I. The nation was already heavily committed to the support of the Allies when the declaration of war was signed in April 1917, and as thousands of young men rushed to volunteer for the Armed Services, and the draft gathered in hundreds more, the labor potential of women for the first time in the history of the United States became of monumental importance. In August 1917, four months after the Navy opened its doors to women in an effort to support the increasing administrative demands of the war, the Secretary of the Navy said: "In my opinion the importance of the part which our American women play in the successful prosecution of the war cannot be overestimated." In October of that same year the New Republic commented: "Our output of the necessities of war must increase at the same time that we must provide for the needs of the civil populations of the countries allied with us. Where are we to get the labor?...The chief potential resource at our command lies evidently in the increased employment of women."