Women's Milestones in Naval History


In 1961 Lieutenant Charlene T. Suneson, USNR, reports for duty to the Officer of the Day, Lieutenant Junior Grade J. A. Bishop, USN, on board USS General W.A. Mann (AP-112). She was the first line WAVES officer to be ordered to shipboard duty.

November 1972

Captain Arlene Duerk, a World War II and Korean War veteran, served as Chief of Nursing Service, Naval Hospital Great Lakes until 1970, when she was promoted to Director, Navy Nusrse Corps. Two years later she became the Navy's first female admiral.

November 1972

Hospitalman Elena J. Peckenpaugh, USN prepares to advance on a simulated shipboard fire with two male fire-fighters during a training session at the Fire Fighting School, Naval Station, Treasure Island, San Francisco, California.

She is one member of the first Navy team of women to train at the school, November 1972. Following training, she was assigned to the Hospital ship USS Sanctuary (AH-17), which was the first ship with a mixed male-female crew.

7 August 1972

Chief of Naval Operations Elmo Zumwalt, Jr. issued Z-Gram 116 which expanded opportunities for Navy women on 7 August 1972

22 February 1974

1973 -First Four Navy Women chosen for Flight Training Pose at Pensacola, Florida in March 1973. LT Barbara Allen became the first Navy woman to earn her wings on 22 February 1974.

(left to right): Lieutenant Junior Grade Barbara Allen, USN, Ensign Jane M. Skiles, USN, Lieutenant Junior Grade Judith A. Neuffer, USN, and Ensign Kathleen L. McNary, USN The Naval flight officer program was opened to women six years later.

May 1976

Alene Duerk, Director of the Navy Nurse Corps became the first female appointed to the rank of Rear Admiral in the Navy making her position a flag billet in 1972. Fran McKee as the first female line officer to hold the rank of Rear Admiral in the Navy. Nineteenth-Century Navy Officer epaulets are tried on for “size” during Rear Admiral McKee’s frocking ceremony at the Pentagon, May 1976.



President Gerald Ford signed Public Law 94-106 requiring the service academies to admit women by 1976.

In the fall of 1976, women entered the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard and Naval Academies; there were 81 women in the class of 1980 at the Naval Academy; 55 of them graduated. Elizabeth Belzer was the first woman graduate and Janie L. Mines, the first black female graduate.

22 February 1974

On 22 February 1974 - Lieutenant Junior Grade Barbara Ann (Allen) Rainey became the first Navy designated female aviator



Navy Nurse Joan C. Bynum became first black female promoted to the rank of captain in 1978.

15 February 1978

The Navy started its women in ships program in 1978 which allowed women to serve on tenders, oilers and other types of auxiliary ships. OPNAV Instruction 5720.2H, Subject: Embarkation in U.S. Naval Ships was issued on 15 February 1978.

Seaman Recruit Joy Turner, USN, pauses in a watertight doorway of the repair ship. In 1978, USS Vulcan became the first U.S. Navy ship to have women permanently stationed on board, with the exception of Nurses and Hospital Corpsmen stationed on board hospital ships

USS Vulcan(AR-5)


Midshipman Janie L. Mines was the first African-American woman, and among the first group of women, to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland in 1980.

Preflight  Walkaround of a MH-53 Helicopter Monica Allen-Perin, CDR   Watercolor, 2003


Beginning in the 1980s, female helicopter pilots got the opportunity to land on aircraft carriers, one of the most challenging maneuvers that a pilot could ever tackle.

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