Naval History and Heritage Command

Hampton Roads Naval Museum


Oral Histories

In the fall of 1975, Yona Owens was up for reassignment. Frustrated by the limited advancement opportunities as a woman in a male dominated billet (job), Owens requested to be assigned to a shipboard detail. When the Navy did not allow Owens to serve at sea, she ultimately contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In November 1976, with the help of the ACLU, Owens and other Navy women filed a class action lawsuit. Click on this link to hear Owens describe filing the court case and joke about how the Navy planned to punish her for her outspoken challenges of existing Navy policies.

This oral history segment is part of a longer interview conducted in 2015.

Roberta “Bobbi” McIntyre was one of the first eight women officers assigned to shipboard duty following the Owens v. Brown court decision. Click on this link to hear McIntyre recall how male shipmates responded to the arrival of women officers.

This oral history segment is part of a longer interview conducted in 2015.

In this video, Roberta “Bobbi” McIntyre discusses how the press reacted to women on ships as well as the logistics of integrating on spaces about vessels. Hear McIntyre’s perspective as one of the first women assigned to sea duty in the Navy in the fall of 1978. 

This oral history segment is part of a longer interview conducted in 2015.

Melvin G. Williams, Sr., served in the Navy from 1951 through 1978. His service extended throughout the Civil Rights era and he offers interesting tales and anecdotes from his time in the Navy during this period of change. Click on this link to hear Williams recall being the only African American in his company at boot camp before being assigned to an all black steward’s school.

This oral history segment is part of a longer interview conducted in 2016.

Melvin G. Williams, Sr., served in the Navy from 1951 through 1978. His service extended throughout the Civil Rights era and he offers interesting tales and anecdotes from his time in the Navy during this period of change. Click on this link to hear Williams recall difficulties minorities had in finding housing in the late 1950s and early ‘60s when Jim Crow segregation remained prevalent across the south.

Published: Mon Mar 20 12:05:57 EDT 2017