History of Women in the Marine Corps

This post originally appeared on the Sandboxx blog as History of Women in the Marine Corps

The United States Marine Corps has a long and proud history that every recruit will learn about when they begin their journey to becoming a United States Marine. With the founding of the Marine Corps in 1776 it wasn’t until 1918 that women became a part of that history. Since then the role of women in the Marine Corps has evolved and expanded as our women Marines continue to push through barriers and pave the way for all women Marines to follow.

History of Women in the Marine Corps

It all began in 1918 when the Secretary of Navy allowed women to enroll into the Marine Corps for clerical duty. The first women credited to joining the Marine Corps was Opha May Johnson. Opha May’s service began on August 13,198 during World War I. During that year 300 more women joined the Marine Corps Reserve for clerical duty.

For the next 100 years women would continue to prove their worth and place in the United States Marines. Here are just a few of the many landmarks made by women in the Marine Corps:


Captain Anne Lentz becomes the first woman commissioned officer.
Private Lucille McClarren becomes the first enlisted woman.


T/Sgt Mary Frances Wancheck of Bobtown, Pennsylvania became the first Woman Marine to rate a “hash mark.” (Hash marks are worn on uniforms and indicate length of service.)


Enlisted and Officer women were sworn in as regular Marines instead of being considered as part of the Marine Reserves.

History of Women in the Marine Corps


Annie Neal Graham becomes the first black female Marine to enlist.


The Marine Corps Women’s Reserve participates in color raising ceremonies at the Marine Barracks, Washington, D. C.


Staff Sergeant Barbara Olive Barnwell becomes the first female Marine to be awarded the Navy and Marine Corps medal for heroism.


Col. Margaret A. Brewer becomes the first female general in Marine Corps history.


Pfc Christina Fuentes Montenegro,  Pfc Julia Carroll and Pfc Katie Gorz become the first female marines to graduate from the Marine Corps’ enlisted infantry training course.


The first female graduates from the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course.

These are just a few of the many accomplishments the women in the Marine Corps have made.  Today women continue to define themselves, making up 8.3% of the Corps women have been proving to be an essential part of the Marine Corps.

Training for women in the Marine Corps

Enlisted Women

The first battle begins at boot camp. All enlisted women in the Corps, regardless of geographic location, are sent to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina for 12 weeks of boot camp training. Boot camp will be the first test for all recruits wish to earn the title of United States Marine. The mission of MCRD Parris Island is:

“We make Marines by recruiting quality young men and women and transforming them through the foundations of rigorous basic training, our shared legacy, and a commitment to our core values, preparing them to win our nation’s battles in service to the country.”

Part of successfully completing requirements to graduate from boot camp will include passing a Physical Fitness Test (PFT) and a Combat Fitness Test (CFT). Women and men have different qualifications to pass these tests. The female PFT qualifications for enlisted females are as follows:

Boot camp will be physically and mentally demanding, learn more about how to prepare for Marine boot camp. After graduation at MCRD Parris Island, new Marines will be sent to the School of Infantry where they will further their training based on their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS).

Women Officers

History of Women in the Marine Corps
Second lieutenant Lillian Polatchek poses in front of an M1A1 Abrams tank at Fort Benning, Georgia. Polatchek is the first female Marine Tank Officer after graduating as the distinguished honor graduate of her Army’s Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course on April 12, 2017.

For those who wish to become an officer in the Marine Corps, 12 weeks of training will begin at Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Quantico, Virginia. OCS will screen candidates to ensure that they have what it takes in order to lead Marines and to win battles. The mission of OCS is:

“To educate and train officer candidates in Marine Corps knowledge and skills within a controlled and challenging environment in order to evaluate and screen individuals for the leadership, moral, mental, and physical qualities required for commissioning as a Marine Corps officer.”

The female PFT qualifications for female officers are as follows:Women in the Marine Corps TodayUpon successfully graduating as an Officer in the United States Marine, training will continue at The Basic School (TBS) and then on to further training based on their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). Learn more about OCS from a successful Female Marine Officer.

Today women in the Marine Corps continue to push through barriers and pave the path for women Marines to follow. The Women Marines Association’s is a non-profit Veteran’s association with a mission to ensure that women’s history as Marines will continue to be told and passed on to a new generation of Marines. With chapters across the country members strive to help all past, present, and future women Marines. Below are a few videos showcasing the amazing accomplishments our Marines are making.

Learn more on how to prepare before marine boot camp or grab one of these books about women in the Marine Corps:

Make sure to download the Sandboxx app to send/receive mail faster at boot camp or OCS.


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