Each year during March we look back on the accomplishments of women in American history. In the Navy Reserve we are fortunate to have many women, both serving and retired, who are able to share their experiences and provide insights into their accomplishments and challenges.
This year’s observance is even more significant following the recent rescission of the restrictions on women in combat and the ramp up of women’s service aboard our submarines. As we celebrate the role of women in our Navy’s history, it’s easy to rattle off a list of notable “firsts,” or contributions. Take for instance, Lt. Cmdr. Barbara Allen Rainey who became the first female Naval aviator in 1974. Capt. Joy Bright Hancock became the first director of the Navy’s female Reserve program in 1942, and was the first female Naval officer to obtain the rank of Lt. Cmdr. A groundbreaker in every sense of the word, Hancock became the director of the Women Accepted for Emergency Volunteer Service (WAVES) in 1946 and founded Naval Aviation News magazine, which is still in circulation today. In 1917, Loretta Perfectus Walsh enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve to become the first active-duty Navy woman, and the first woman to serve in a non-nursing capacity in ANY of the armed services. She went on to be the first Chief Yeoman in the Navy as well.
While we can imagine the type of courage and determination it must have taken these women to serve back then, the truth is that the women in uniform today, the women who serve in the Navy Reserve and in all branches of service, embody those same characteristics. They possess the same spirit of determination, strength, perseverance and passion for serving their country as their predecessors.
This April the U.S. Navy Memorial will launch its exhibit, “Year of the Military Woman,” and the Naval Heritage Center will feature historical and modern photographs in addition to original artwork and recruiting posters from military collections, as well as uniforms and other rare artifacts.
Also, if you haven’t had the opportunity to read it yet, our CNRFC Public Affairs LCPO, MCC Sarah Langdon, wrote a great feature in the March TNR on the Navy Reserve’s unofficial women’s historian, retired YNCS April Maletz. Senior Chief Maletz, a remarkable woman and Sailor in her own right, has been a tireless steward of Navy women’s history and memorabilia.
Please share your Women’s History Month celebrations with us. We’d love to see your pictures and hear about what your commands and units did to recognize the contributions of women to our Armed Forces.
Take care and keep up the great work!