Women were first officially assigned as keepers in the Lighthouse Service beginning in the 1830s although many wives and daughters of keepers had previously served as keepers when their husbands or fathers became ill. Women continued as lighthouse keepers until 1947. Click here for more information.
From 1859 to 1862 Maria Andreu (a.k.a. Maria Mestre de los Dolores) served as the Keeper of the St. Augustine Lighthouse in Florida, becoming the first Hispanic-American woman to serve in the Coast guard and the first Hispanic-American woman to oversee a federal shore installation.
Twin sisters Genevieve and Lucille Baker of the Naval Coastal Defense Reserve became the first uniformed women to serve in the Coast Guard.
First civilian women hired to serve in secretarial and clerical positions.
SPARs established. LCDR Dorothy Stratton transferred from the Navy to serve as the director of the SPARs. More than 11,000 SPARs served during World War II. The program was largely demobilized after the war.
7 December 1942: YN3 Dorothy Tuttle became the first SPAR enlistee.
First five African-American females entered the SPARs: Olivia Hooker, D. Winifred Byrd, Julia Mosley, Yvonne Cumberbatch, and Aileen Cooke.
SPAR Marjorie Bell Stewart was awarded the Silver Lifesaving Medal by CAPT Dorothy Stratton, becoming the first SPAR to receive the award.
(25 July); The Women’s Reserve of the U. S. Coast Guard Reserve (SPARs) was inactivated.
On January 31, 1948, Mrs. Fannie Mae Salter, keeper of the Turkey Point Lighthouse in upper Chesapeake Bay since 1925 and the last woman keeper of a lighthouse in the United States, retired from active service. This ended nearly 150 years during which women were employed as keepers of United States’ lighthouses.
(1 November) Authority to reestablish the Women’s Reserve of the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves (SPARs), approved by the President on 4 August 1949, became effective.
(January) U.S. Coast Guard Women’s Volunteer Reserve was opened to all eligible veteran SPAR officers.
(5 April) The U.S. Coast Guard announced that former enlisted women of the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve could apply for enlistment in the Women’s Volunteer Reserve, or SPARs. Enlistments would be for a three-year period with written agreement to serve on active duty in time of war or national emergency.
(8 August) The U.S. Coast Guard announced the start of an intensive campaign throughout the nation to reenlist former U.S. Coast Guardsmen and Reservists, including SPARs, in the new Coast Guard Reserve.
First Coast Guard SPAR advanced to warrant officer: Elizabeth Splaine.
First civilian women hired in non-traditional occupations such as engineering.
First SPAR advanced to E-9: Pearl Faurie.
Approximately 75 women enlisted as SK’s and YN’s in the USCG Reserve.
28 March 1972 a bill was introduced in the House to authorize the appointment of women to “any military service academy” although this bill fails. Congress eventually lifted restrictions on 7 October 1975 with a rider attached to the Defense Authorization bill that year (Public Law 94-106).
10 April 1972 the Commandant, Admiral Chester Bender, established an official board “to determine the need for permanent women officers in the regular Coast Guard.” The board concluded in their report submitted in May, 1972 that: 1) “No need for regular women officers in specific billets currently exists in the Coast Guard except in cases where a male applicant with adequate qualifications is not available. This requirement in itself does not justify initiation of a program at this time. In fact, a program of such small size is not desirable; 2) Nevertheless, considering all factors, it is in the overall best interest of the Coast Guard to begin a controlled women officer program with provisions for integration into the regular Coast Guard included; 3); Planning and execution of a women officer program in the Coast Guard is overdue.
First women’s Reserve Enlisted Basic Indoctrination classes established. Four ratings were available: Yeoman, Storekeeper, Radioman, and Hospital Corpsman.
Legislation ends Women’s Reserve & Women integrated into active duty and Coast Guard Reserve. Women on active duty were given the choice of enlisting in the regular Coast Guard or completing their reserve enlistments.
In February, 1973, the first women since 1945 were admitted to Officer Candidate School.
Combat exclusion for women in the Coast Guard ends.
Alice Jefferson became the first SPAR to be sworn into the regular Coast Guard.
1 November 1973: enlistment of women authorized for four year tours of active duty. The ratings to be held by these women were limited to yeoman (YN), storekeeper (SK), hospital corpsman (HM), photo-journalist (PA), dental technician (DT), and musician (MU).
7 December 1973: first female enlistee accepted.
The first group of women ever enlisted as “Regulars” report to Cape May on 15 January.
Mixed-gender basic training begins.
29 February 1974: Radioman (RM), Fire Control Technician (FT), Telephone Technician (TT), and Boatswain’s Mate (BM) rating opened and school-qualified proviso dropped, thus sanctioning non-rated women.
First woman on active duty promoted to Captain since World War II: Eleanor L’Ecuyer.
11 August 1975: A DOT press release noted that the Commandant, ADM Owen Siler, announced “that women will join the Corps of Cadets at New London. . .Admiral Siler said his decision to admit women to the Academy was based on the many contributions he expected women to make in the peace-time missions of the Coast Guard. . .He noted that current statutes do not bar the admission of women to the Coast Guard Academy and that action by Congress will not be required. This decision is also in keeping with the strong commitment of the leadership of the Department of Transportation to assure equal rights for women.” An article in the CGA Alumni Bulletin noted that the Academy “thus becomes the first of the armed forces to open its doors to women.” (Alumni Bulletin (Sep/Oct 1975), p. 8.
November, 1975: the Commandant approved a new uniform for women in the Coast Guard designed by Edith Head, Hollywood fashion expert.
1 January 1976 all aviation ratings opened to women. This completed opening to women all ratings in which “their service would not unacceptably impact the sea-isolated/shore duty ratio.”
February, 1976: The Coast Guard Academy first announced the appointments of 50 cadets to enter with the Class of 1980, including three women: Cathryn Lis of Bristol, CT; Susan Kollmeyer of Groton, CT; & Cynthia Snead of Melbourne, FL. The Coast Guard News Release published on 4 February 1976 regarding their announcement noted that: “Of the four largest federal service academies (Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard) the Coast Guard Academy is the first to offer an appointment to a woman.” (USCG News Release No. 7-76; 4 February 1976).
Debra Chambers Buchanan and Debra Lee Wilson became the first female coxswains in the Coast Guard. Click here for Debra Buchanan’s photo.
First mixed-gender crews afloat, October, 1977. The CGCs Gallatin and Morgenthau became the first cutters with mixed-gender crews. There were 24 women assigned to sea duty aboard the two cutters, twelve on each.
Janna Lambine became the first female designated as a Coast Guard aviator. Click for her photo: (75 dpi) ; (300 dpi)
Connie Swaro became the first active-duty female promoted to E-7 on 1 August 1977.
All officer career fields and enlisted ratings opened to women.
In January 1978 YN2 Ella Bragg became the first woman to reenlist in the regular Coast Guard since the Service began accepting women as regular enlistees.
YNC Holly became the first female company commander at TRACEN Cape May. She commanded the first all-female company Gulf-101.
Marlene DeTienne attended the Law Enforcement School in Yorktown as a BM1. DeTienne was the first female active-duty BM1 in the Coast Guard and the first woman to attend LE school. She was invited to the be the Coast Guard’s enlisted representative to the 1979 DACOWITS Conference and was the only female (and only BM1) in the Ops Center during the 1980 Mariel Boat Lift. She was the first woman to make BM3 by striking.
Jeanette Roberts Burr became the light-keeper of the New Dungeness Light Station, becoming the first uniformed Coast Guard woman to become a light-keeper. She was the first woman light-keeper since Fannie Mae Salter (who retired in 1947), a civilian Coast Guard employee.
Beverly Kelley became the first female commanding officer afloat when she took command of the CGC Cape Newagen.
LT Kay Hartzell became the first female commanding officer of an isolated duty station when she took command of LORAN Station Lampedusa, Italy.
Sandra Ward West graduated from C-130 Flight Engineer School at Little Rock AFB, becoming the first woman to both attend and graduate from that school. She was the first female C-130 Flight Engineer.
First woman to be awarded the Coast Guard Medal: SN Ina J. Toays, USCG (21 June 1979).
Second woman to make BM1: Debra Chambers Buchanan. Click here for her photo.
Cadet 1/c Linda Johansen became Regimental Commander of the Cadet Corps, the first woman to win Corps command at any of the four service academies.
First woman graduated from the Coast Guard Academy: Jean M. Butler; 13 other women also graduate as part of the Academy’s Class of 1980.
DACOWITS amended its regulations to include the concerns of Coast Guard women.
In June, 1980, Petty Officer Jan Freeman was assigned to LORAN Station Kure, becoming one of the first two women assigned to isolated/restricted/independent duty there if not in the entire Coast Guard. Petty Officer Freeman had protested the restriction of enlisted women from serving at isolated/restricted/independent duty and forced the Commandant to change that policy.
Petty Officer Beth L. Suher was the first female quarters manager. She served at Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole’s dining room as well as ADM Paul Yost’s quarters in the early 1980s. She received her training at the Culinary Institute of America.
First Class Storekeeper Mary Alice “Mike” Shaffer retired from the Coast Guard Reserve after 34 years of service. She was the last World War II-era SPAR to retire from the service and was probably the only former SPAR to leave in compliance with legal maximum age requirements.
Connie Swaro became the first active-duty woman to be promoted to E-8 when she was promoted on 1 September 1981.
Lieutenant Colleen Cain, the first female Coast Guard pilot to fly an HH-52, became the first female Coast Guard aviator to qualify as an HH-52 co-pilot, pilot and aircraft commander.
Lieutenant Colleen Cain became the first woman killed in the line of duty when the HH-52 she was flying as co-pilot crashed during a SAR mission.
First active-duty woman promoted to Public Affairs Chief Petty Officer: PAC Day Boswell.
Policy on Coast Guard women in combat was established: Coast Guard Chief of Staff, RADM Paul A. Yost, noted: “the men and women on our vessels are trained and function as a team. Removal of women during wartime would degrade operational readiness while replacement personnel are trained and acquire experience.”
First woman to be awarded the Air Medal: AD3 Carolyn DeLeo
First female radioman advanced to E-7: Robin Patton.
Lia deBettencourt became the first woman to make Coast Guard Person of the Year for an entire District (D-5 in 1983 and D-3 in 1985).
First woman to complete Navy Dive School: BM2 Linda Moroz (she was assigned to the National Strike Force Dive Team, Elizabeth City, NC).
Vivien Crea became the first Coast Guard woman officer assigned as Military Aide to the President.
First active-duty woman to graduate from the Coast Guard’s CPO Academy: Connie Swaro (17 August 1984).
Denise Matthews became the first woman to graduate first in her class at the Coast Guard Academy.
On 3 June 1985 the first Coast Guard aircraft ever flown by two female pilots conducted a SAR mission off the west coast of Florida. The flight crew consisted of LTJG Vickie Karnes and LTJG Cathy Bierne and they flew a HU-25A from Air Station Miami.
First woman to graduate at the top of the class from Damage Controlman School at Governors Island, April, 1985.
First female Coast Guardsman to graduate from Navy Rescue Swimmer School and the Coast Guard’s first female rescue swimmer: Kelly Mogk (Larson).
First woman promoted to CWO (PERS): Pamela Jones.
First female MSTC: Lia deBettencourt, 1986.
LT Monyee Kazek and LT Jody Turner were assigned to 270s in 1989 as EOs, becoming the first female EOs of a Coast Guard cutter. LT Kazek was assigned in 1987 as the Pre-commissioning EO of the CGC Thetis.
First woman promoted to CWO (F&S): Ellen Terrill.
First woman promoted to CWO (MED): Connie Swaro.
First enlisted woman assigned to officer-in-charge afloat billet: Dianne Bucci, who commanded the CGC Capstan (WYTL-65601) commencing in September 1988.
First woman appointed as Coast Guard Flight Officer (NFO): LT Samone Vassar.
First African-American female/first female engineer advanced to E-7: Pamela Autry.
First Asian American female warrant officer: Grace Parmelee.
Sandra Stosz was the first woman to serve as the military aide to the Secretary of the Transportation when she served as Aide to Secretary Sam Skinner from 1989-1990.
First enlisted woman assigned as officer-in-charge ashore: Krystine Carbajal.
First woman promoted to CWO (ELC): Lauren Cantatore.
First woman promoted to CWO (COMMS): Robin Patton.
The Women in the Coast Guard Study was initiated.
Desert Shield began with 14 women reservists serving in the Persian Gulf.
First Women’s Policy Advisor appointed: Lane McClelland.
First woman promoted to CWO (BOSN): Anne Visser.
Women’s Advisory Council established.
LTJG Katherine Tiongson (nee Faverey) took command of USCGC Bainbridge Island, becoming the first Hispanic-American female to command an afloat unit. She was also the first Hispanic-American female intelligence officer in the Coast Guard.
First active duty woman since SPARs promoted to the rank of captain: Lane I. McClelland.
First woman commanding officer of an air station: Vivien Crea.
First Hispanic American female advanced to E-7: Sonia Colon.
First enlisted woman since the SPARs to be advanced to E-9: Patricia Stolle.
First military woman assigned as Chief Judge of the Coast Guard: Lane McClelland.
First woman promoted to E-7 in a weapons rating: Jo Wildman.
BM2 Kathy Niles was the first woman to qualify on the 47-foot MLB (47200).
First woman promoted to MKC: Gayla Thompson. She was also the first female who held the qualifications for EPO Ashore/Afloat.
First woman assigned as Executive Assistant to the Commandant: Vivien Crea.
On 1 July 1994 Veronica Jones Sharpe retired from active duty after 20 years and 17 days along with two other African-American women, including Petty Officer Vonetta McGee. They were the first African-American enlisted women to retire from active duty after 20 years of service.
Nadine H. Lewis was the first female YN to be awarded a cutterman’s pin.
Doris Hull became the first active duty African-American woman to be promoted to warrant officer.
BM2 Kathy Niles became the first woman to win the Munro Award.
ENS Lucinda Cunnigham became the first female OIC in charge of any of the armed forces’ honor guards.
Joyce Johnson became the first female Admiral appointed from the Public Health Service to head the Coast Guard Health and Safety Directorate.
Pamela Autry became the first female Chief of the Boat.
Sally Brice-O-Hara became the first female commanding officer of a Coast Guard Training Center.
First two female “Gold Badge” Command Master Chief Petty Officers: Patricia Stolle, Diane Bucci.
First woman Chief Petty Officer Academy School Chief: Sandra O’Toole.
First woman promoted to CWO (WEPs): Jo Wildman.
First women promoted to CWO (ENG): Gayla Thompson, Karyn Terry.
LTJG Kathy Niles became the first woman to command an 87-foot WPB when she took command of USCGC Stingray, Mobile, AL.
First woman promoted to RADM: Vivien S. Crea
First woman promoted to Reserve RADM: Mary P. O’Donnell, USCGR
First African-American woman promoted to Master Chief Petty Officer: Angela McShan.
First woman promoted to CWO (AVI), Deborah Walsh, 1 June 2000.
First African-American woman to serve as a Coast Guard Special Agent, Lucille “Pam” Thompson, July, 2000 to July, 2004.
First African-American woman to command an operations ashore unit: CDR Sharon Donald-Baynes, when she took command of Group Lower Mississippi River based in Memphis, Tennessee.
ENS Andrea Parker became the first African-American woman to graduate with an engineering degree from the Coast Guard Academy.
In June, 2002, CAPT Jane M. Hartley, USCGR, was designated as the Commanding Officer of Marine Safety Office Wilmington, North Carolina and as such became the first woman in the Coast Guard to become Captain of the Port.
Then-CDR Gail Kulisch took command of the Atlantic Strike Team, becoming the first female commanding officer of a Strike Team.
LTJG Angelina Hidalgo became the second Hispanic female to command an afloat unit and was the second Hispanic female intelligence officer.
Cadet 1/c Sarah Salazar became the first Hispanic female Regimental Commander at the Coast Guard Academy.
First active-duty women to serve in a combat zone when CGC Boutwell served in the Northern-Arabian Gulf in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom from January 2003 to June 2003.
In December 2003 Coast Guard helicopter pilot LCDR Sidonie Bosin was recognized by the First Flight Centennial Commission’s 100 Heroes Committee (formed for the commemoration of the Wright Brothers first powered flight) as being one of the “top 100 aviators of all time.” She was also the first female aviation officer in charge of air crews deployed to the Coast Guard cutter Polar Sea in the Antarctic, including one of an all-female flight crew.
Then-CDR Meredith Austin took command of the National Strike Force Coordination Center, becoming the first female commanding officer of the Center.
First female Company Commander School Chief at TRACEN: YNC Crystal A. Sparks.
LCDR Rhonda Fleming-Makell was the first African-American female Coast Guard officer to earn a 20-year retirement.
YNCM Pamela J. Carter was the first female active duty master chief petty officer to retire with 30 years of active-duty service when she retired on 1 June 2004.
First female commanding officer of the Coast Guard Institute: Theresa Tierney, August, 2004.
First African-American female Coast Guard aviator: LTJG Jeanine McIntosh-Menze (24 June 2005).
First woman warrant boatswain to command a Coast Guard station: CWO3 Mary Ward commanded Station Port Canaveral until her retirement on 16 June 2006.
CWO2 Apple G. Pryor, assigned as the Main Propulsion Assistant onboard the CGC Boutwell, was the first African-American female Naval Engineering Chief Warrant Officer of the Coast Guard.
SN Panayiota Bertzikis started the Military Rape Crisis Center at Coast Guard Boston two months after she was raped.
First female medical officer to be assigned to a PSU was LT Isabel Papp. She was also the first Hispanic female MD to be assigned to a PSU and was also the first Hispanic female Physician’s Assistant in the Coast Guard Reserve.
LT Rachel Lewis was the first African-American female officer to serve aboard USCGB Eagle as Command Cadre (Operations Officer), 2006-2008.
Mary Cunningham became the first African-American female and the first active-duty female to make Chief Damage Controlman when she was promoted from DC1 to DCC on 1 August 2007.
Jennifer Lowden became the first female school chief for Training Center Yorktown on 01 June 2008. She also became the first female MKCS in the Coast Guard when she was promoted on 01 August 2008.
LT Felicia Thomas took command of the CGC Pea Island on 19 June 2009. She is the first African-American female commanding officer of a Coast Guard cutter.
LT Carrie Wolfe and LT Olivia Grant became the first African-American female Engineering Officers on a major cutter when they reported aboard the CGC Spencer and CGC Venturous respectively in the summer of 2009.
CAPT Sandra L. Stosz was promoted to RADM, becoming the first female graduate of the Coast Guard Academy to reach flag rank.
LTJG La’Shanda Holmes became the first African-American female helicopter pilot in the Coast Guard.
BM1 Laura M. Bostwick became the first female to command an ATON boat in Mobile.
LT Nicole Carter was the first African-American female officer to receive a permanent Cutterman’s Pin.
LTJG Miranda Pierce was the third female Hispanic Intelligence Officer.