CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — Aug. 13, 2023 marks 105 years since the first woman enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.
During World War I, 305 women were accepted for duty in the Marine Corps Reserve on this day in history. Opha May Johnson became the first known woman to enlist as she was reported to be first in line at the recruiting station, Camp Pendleton explained.
The Kokomo, Indiana native was sent to Capitol Hill to fill administrative roles in the office of Quartermaster General of the Marine Corps in Washington D.C. — a role she would lead throughout the first World War.
According to Marine Corps University, most women filled clerical billets at Headquarters, Marine Corps. This allowed male Marines qualified for active field service to be released to fight in France.
Other women, the university explained, filled jobs at recruiting stations throughout the U.S. This was until July 30, 1919 when orders were issued for separation of all women from the Marine Corps since the war had ended.
That was until World War II when the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was established. At this time enlisted women not only performed clerical work but also had duties like parachute riggers, mechanics, radio operators, map makers, motor transport support and welders, the university explained.
After Japan surrendered, the Women’s Reserve mostly demobilized but a number of women returned to service as regulars under the 1948 Women’s Armed Services Integration Act.
Now, over a century since Opha May Johnson became the first enlisted female Marine, women account for approximately 4.3% of all Marine officers and make up 5.1% of the active duty enlisted force in the Marine Corps, according to Marine Corps University.