February 02, 2006
Women mark 63rd year of service
By Beth Zimmerman
Times staff writer

Following the establishment of the Marine Women's Reserve in 1943, the Corps used recruiting posters like this in an attempt to recruit qualified women to enlist. — U.S. Marine Corps

This month marks the 63rd anniversary of women officially serving in the Marine Corps, according to the Women Marines Association.

According to the Corps’ General Military Subjects book issued to recruits, women entered the Corps in 1918, with Opha Mae Johnson the first one to join.

The Marine Women’s Reserve was established in February 1943, the release said. A message from the association’s president, Paula Sarlls, said women served as “Marinettes” in World War I, and they worked mostly in administration. They also served in World War II to free men to fight, she said, when their assignments were limited to the U.S.

In a 1944 message on the first anniversary of the establishment of the Marine Women's Reserve, President Franklin Roosevelt addressed the Corps’ women. "You have quickly and efficiently taken over...duties that not long ago were considered strictly masculine assignments,” his message read. “In doing so, you have freed a large number of well-trained, battle-ready men of the corps for action.”

The 63rd anniversary comes a few days after another milestone for female Marines. On Jan. 23, Col. Adele Hodges assumed command of Camp Lejeune, N.C., as the first female commander in the installation’s history.

“It’s overwhelming to see that profound progress,” Sarlls said.