This Day in the Law
August 13

Women Enlist in U.S. Marine Corps for First Time (1918)

On August 13, 1918, the U.S. Marine Corps allowed women to enlist for the very first time. Opha Mae Johnson became the first woman to enlist in the Marine Corps on this day 1918 along with over 300 other women to serve in World War I.

Women were not allowed in war zones during World War I. So, women worked in other capacities including clerical rolls, recruiting stations, and other jobs during the war. These women’s enlistments came around a half century after Susan B. Anthony pushed for the equality of women’s rights in all aspects of life.

After World War I, the military issued orders for the separation of all women from the Marine Corps. In 1943, after the start of World War II, the Marine Corps established the Women’s Reserve. By the end of World War II, over 23,000 women served as officers and enlisted personnel with the Marines. And these women worked in over 200 different military jobs, including mechanics, motor transport support staff, parachute riggers, radio operators, welders, etc.

Again, following World War II, most women were demobilized from service. However, many women continued with their service.

Today, less than 100 years after the first women entered service in the Marines, women Marines account for over 4% of all officers and over 5% of active duty enlisted. Also, now over 60% of all jobs in the Marine Corps are open to women. As such, women today in the Marine Corps continue to serve with honor and distinction in the capacities called upon them by their country.