Honoring the Trailblazers: Women of the U.S. Navy



Seventy-two years ago, on July 7, 1948, the first six women were sworn into the Regular United States Navy.

These first six women are pictured above. In the front row, left to right are Chief Yeoman Wilma J. Marchal, USN; Yeoman Second Class Edna E. Young, USN; and Hospital Corpsman First Class Ruth Flora, USN. In the second row, left to right are Aviation Storekeeper First Class Kay L. Langen, USN; Storekeeper Second Class Frances T. Devaney, USN; and Teleman Doris R. Robertson, USN. Edna Young was the first black woman to enlist in the regular Navy in 1948.

The women were sworn into the Regular Navy by Rear Adm. George L. Russell, while Secretary of the Navy John L. Sullivan on the far left observed. To the right of Russell is Captain Joy B. Hancock, Director of the Woman’s Reserve.

The current CNO, Adm. Mike Gilday honored this historic day via twitter,

The Women Armed Services Integration Act of July 30, 1948 allowed women to enlist in the peacetime Navy.  This act was signed into law by President Harry S. Truman on June 12, 1948. This Act allowed women to serve as permanent and regular members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and the Air Force. 

The first women that served in the U.S. Navy were nurses, beginning with the “Sacred Twenty” that were appointed after the Navy Nurse Corps was established by Congress on May 13, 1908. 

The first large-scale enlistment of women into the Navy was designed to meet clerical shortages during World War I. The  second came months before the United States entered World War II. On July 30, 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Public Law 689 creating the Navy’s women reserve program which paved the way for officers and enlisted women to enter the Navy.










The first woman aviator in the Navy was designated on February 22, 1974.  Twenty years later, on March 7, 1994, the Navy issued the first orders for women to be assigned aboard a combatant ship, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69).  

Women now serve in a multitude of roles in every rank from seaman to admiral and in every job from naval aviator to deep-sea diver.












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