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Marines display the different uniforms women have worn since World War I during the Women’s History Month fashion show in building 1707 March 12 from 10:30-11:30 a.m. As each uniform was presented, the narrator related the history of the uniform and the significant contributions women have made throughout the history of the Corps.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew D. Thorburn

MCCES highlights female role in Marine Corps history

19 Mar 2010 | Lance Cpl. Andrew D. Thorburn

The Combat Center’s Marine Corps Communications-Electronics School and the Combat Center’s Equal Opportunity Advisor hosted a seminar on Women’s History Month at building 1707 from 10:30-11:30 a.m. March 12.

The presentation included a history of women serving in the Marine Corps, by guest speaker Sgt. Maj. Ramona Cook, the installation sergeant major for Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. The event also included a uniform pageant showcasing the uniforms worn by female Marines throughout the Corps’ history.

Women have been part of the U.S. military since the Revolutionary War, first serving as cooks and nurses without rank and sometimes without pay, said Cook, a native of Murrieta, Calif.

Col. David Terando, the MCCES commanding officer, said it is important to recognize and remember what women have accomplished throughout America’s history.

After Terando’s speech Gunnery Sgt. Cheryl Hyde, narrated the uniform pageant.

“The first woman Marine was Opha Mae Johnson. She enlisted on Aug. 13, 1918, when the country was embroiled in World War I,” Hyde said. “Women were enrolled in the Marine Corps specifically for clerical duties at Headquarters Marine Corps, and other offices within the United States, to replace men who were qualified for active field service.”

After World War I, the Marine Corps continued to bar women from military service to accommodate all the returning war veterans.

“On Nov. 7, 1942, the Commandant of the Marine Corps officially approved the formation of the Marine Corps Women Reserve,” Hyde said. “A policy study showed women in the ranks could perform the clerical, pay master, motor transport and other state-side duties, and thus ‘free a man to fight,’” she said.

Women quickly proved themselves and became an indespensible part of the war effort.

“Never underestimate the power of a women and the significance they bring to the fight,” said Col. John Holden, the chief of staff for the Combat Center.

After the war, women became a permanent part of the Marine Corps and Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., reopened to provide basic training to enlisted women.

Women were not exposed to hostile fire until 1965 when Master Sgt. Josephine Davis was the first to come under hostile fire during the crisis in the Dominican Republic, Hyde said.

During the 1980s and ‘90s, women began to qualify on the rifle range and their drill instructors earned the right to wear the Campaign Cover.

Today, although women are still prevented by law to be assigned to infantry units, many still serve in combat zones due to the changing nature of modern warfare.

“It has taken 200 years of trial for women to have risen from cooks and nurses with no rank and no pay to where we stand now,” Cook said.

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