Women in the United States Marines

There have been women in the United States Marines since 1918, and women continue to serve in it today.[1][2]


Opha May Johnson was the first woman to enlist in the Marines. She joined the Marine Corps Reserve in 1918, officially becoming the first female Marine.[1]

World War I

Opha May Johnson was the first woman to enlist in the Marines. She joined the Marine Corps Reserve in 1918, officially becoming the first female Marine.[1] From then until the end of World War I, 305 women enlisted in the Marines.[3]

World War II

The Marine Corps created the Marine Corps Women's Reserve in 1943.[4] Ruth Cheney Streeter was its first director.[5] Over 20,000 women Marines served in World War II, in over 225 different specialties, filling 85 percent of the enlisted jobs at Headquarters Marine Corps and comprising one-half to two-thirds of the permanent personnel at major Marine Corps posts. Bea Arthur served in this capacity during the war. [5][6] However, it was not until after World War II, in 1948, that the Women's Armed Services Integration Act of 1948 gave women permanent status in the Regular and Reserve forces of the Marines.[4]

Korean War

The Marine Corps Women's Reserve was mobilized for the first time in August 1950 for the Korean War, eventually reaching peak strength of 2,787 active-duty women Marines.[7] Most women Marines served as part of the clerical and administrative staff.[8]

Vietnam War

In 1967 Master Sergeant Barbara Dulinsky became the first female Marine to serve in a combat zone in Vietnam.[2] At the peak of the Vietnam War, there were approximately 2,700 women Marines on active duty, serving both stateside and overseas.[9]

Women in the Marines since 1972

Captain Elizabeth A. Okoreeh-Baah, the first female MV-22 Osprey pilot, stands on the flight line in Al Asad, Iraq after a combat operation on March 12, 2008

Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677 (1973), was a landmark Supreme Court case[lower-alpha 1] which decided that benefits given by the military to the family of service members cannot be given out differently because of sex.[10]

In 1991 the Tailhook scandal occurred, in which Marine Corps (and Navy) aviators were accused of sexually assaulting 83 women (and 7 men) at the Tailhook convention in Las Vegas.[11]

Approximately one thousand women Marines were deployed for Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.[9]

Before the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy was enacted in 1993, lesbians and bisexual women (and gay men and bisexual men) were banned from serving in the military.[12] In 1993 the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy was enacted, which mandated that the military could not ask servicemembers about their sexual orientation.[13][14] However, until the policy was ended in 2011 service members were still expelled from the military if they engaged in sexual conduct with a member of the same sex, stated that they were lesbian, gay, or bisexual, and/or married or attempted to marry someone of the same sex.[15]

On April 28, 1993, combat exclusion was lifted from aviation positions by Les Aspin, permitting women to serve in almost any aviation capacity.[16]

In 1994, the Pentagon declared:

Service members are eligible to be assigned to all positions for which they are qualified, except that women shall be excluded from assignment to units below the brigade level whose primary mission is to engage in direct combat on the ground.[17]

That policy also excluded women being assigned to certain organizations based upon proximity to direct combat or "collocation" as the policy specifically referred to it.[18] According to the Army, collocation occurs when, "the position or unit routinely physically locates and remains with a military unit assigned a doctrinal mission to routinely engage in direct combat."[19]

American women in the Marines served in the Afghanistan War from 2001 until 2014, and in the Iraq War from 2003 until 2011.[20][21][22][23]

In 2013 Leon Panetta removed the military's ban on women serving in combat, overturning the 1994 rule. Panetta's decision gave the military services until January 2016 to seek special exceptions if they believed any positions must remain closed to women. The services had until May 2013 to draw up a plan for opening all units to women and until the end of 2015 to actually implement it.[24][25] In 2015 Joseph Dunford, the commandant of the Marine Corps, recommended that women be excluded from competing for certain front-line combat jobs.[26] That year a U.S. official confirmed that the Marine Corps had requested to keep some combat jobs open only to men.[27] However, in December 2015, Defense Secretary Ash Carter stated that starting in 2016 all combat jobs would open to women.[28] In March 2016, Ash Carter approved final plans from military service branches and the U.S. Special Operations Command to open all combat jobs to women, and authorized the military to begin integrating female combat soldiers "right away."[29]

Also in 2016, a female lance corporal in the Marines requested a lateral move into an infantry “military occupational specialty,” making her the first female Marine to sign up for the infantry.[30]

It was announced on June 30, 2016 that, beginning on that date, otherwise qualified United States service members could not any longer be discharged, denied reenlistment, involuntarily separated, or denied continuation of service because of being transgender (including but not limited to transgender women).[31]

See also


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Women in the United States Marine Corps.
  1. Technically, the case was decided under the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause, not under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, since the latter applies not to the federal government but to the states. However, because Bolling v. Sharpe, through the doctrine of reverse incorporation, made the standards of the Equal Protection Clause applicable to the federal government, it was for practical purposes an addition not to due process, but rather to equal protection jurisprudence.


  1. 1 2 3 Hewitt, Linda J. (1974). Women Marines In World War I (1974). United States Marine Corps History and Museums Division. Retrieved 2014-12-31.
  2. 1 2 "Women Marines Association". Womenmarines.org. Retrieved 2015-08-11.
  3. "Women Marines". Usmcpress.com. Retrieved 2015-08-11.
  4. 1 2 "Women In Military Service For America Memorial". Womensmemorial.org. 1950-07-27. Retrieved 2015-08-11.
  5. 1 2 "Women in the US Military - WWII: Marine Corps Women's Reserve". Chnm.gmu.edu. Retrieved 2015-08-11.
  6. "Marine Corps Videos | Marine Corps Women's Reserve: 1943-1948". Marines.com. 1918-07-19. Retrieved 2015-08-11.
  7. Linda Cates Lacy (2004). We are Marines!: World War I to the Present. Tar Heel Chapter, NC-1, Women Marines Association. pp. 127–. ISBN 978-1-59975-887-9.
  8. Paul M. Edwards (1 January 2006). The Korean War. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 53–. ISBN 978-0-313-33248-7.
  9. 1 2 "Women in the Marine Corps". Mcu.usmc.mil. Retrieved 2015-08-11.
  10. "Frontiero v. Richardson | The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law". Oyez.org. Retrieved 2015-08-09.
  11. Shalal, Andrea (2012-09-10). "'Tailhook' cleaned up, but top Marine sees more work to stop sex assaults". Reuters. Retrieved 2015-08-15.
  12. Elizabeth Hoffman (2003-03-28). "Military Service Should Be Based On Conduct, Not Sexual Orientation". prezi.com. Retrieved January 15, 2014.
  13. Craig A. Rimmerman Gay rights, military wrongs: political perspectives on lesbians and gays in the military, Garland Pub., 1996 ISBN 0815325800 p. 249
  14. Thompson, Mark. (2008-01-28) 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Turns 15. TIME. Retrieved on 2010-11-30.
  15. Richard A. Gittins The Military Commander & the Law, DIANE Publishing, 1996 ISBN 0788172603 p. 215
  16. Lohrenz, Carey D. (2013-01-30). "Time for Some Fearless Leadership | TIME.com". Nation.time.com. Retrieved 2015-08-09.
  17. New York Times - October 11, 2009
  18. "Department of Defense active duty military personnel by rank/grade". Department of Defense. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
  19. Army Regulation (27 March 1992). "Army Regulation 600-13, Army Policy For The Assignment of Female Soldiers.". Department of the Army.
  20. Alan Taylor. "The Women of the Afghanistan War". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2015-08-11.
  21. Wong, Kristina (2011-12-19). "Female Marines Rebuilt Lives After Iraq Attack - ABC News". Abcnews.go.com. Retrieved 2015-08-11.
  22. "Afghanistan War officially ends". Militarytimes.com. 2014-12-30. Retrieved 2015-08-09.
  23. "Last U.S. troops leave Iraq, ending war - Reuters". Reuters. 2011-12-18. Retrieved 2014-10-29.
  24. "Women In Combat Ban Removed". Huffington Post. 23 January 2013.
  25. "Panetta to lift ban on women in combat". CBS News. 2013-06-14.
  26. Lolita C. Baldor. "Women not right for all combat roles, Marines say | The Columbus Dispatch". Dispatch.com. Retrieved 2015-09-20.
  27. Torbati, Yeganeh (2015). "U.S. military chiefs to report on opening combat roles to women". Reuters. Retrieved 2015-10-01.
  28. Jim Miklaszewski. "All Combat Roles Now Open to Women". NBC News.
  29. "Ashton Carter approves final strategy for women in military combat roles". The Washingtion Times.
  30. "First Female Marine Signs Up For Infantry". Scout.com. 18 April 2016.
  31. "TMilitary lifts transgender ban s". McClatchy. June 30, 2016. Retrieved June 30, 2016.
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