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Dorothy Constance Stratton

Dorothy Constance Stratton was the director of the SPARS, the United States Coast Guard Women’s Reserve during World War II. She is the namesake of the Coast Guard’s third National Security Cutter, the USCGC Stratton (WMSL-752).

Stratton was born in 1899 in Brookfield, Missouri. She graduated from Ottawa University in 1920 and received her Master’s degree from the University of Chicago. She received a Ph.D. from Columbia University. She taught at public high schools in Brookfield, Missouri, Renton, Washington and San Bernardino, California (she was dean of girls at San Bernardino High School) before joining the faculty at Purdue University as dean of women and assistant professor of psychology.

She served on the selection board for the Women’s Army Corps V Corps Area. In 1942, she took a leave of absence from Purdue and joined the WAVES, and was commissioned a lieutenant.

In late 1942, she was ordered to Washington, DC to the office of the Commandant of the Coast Guard to organize the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve, and was transferred from the Navy to the Coast Guard. She developed the name SPARS using a contraction of the Coast Guard motto Semper Paratus and its English translation Always Ready. She was appointed its first director with a rank of lieutenant commander.

Stratton continued in the post until 1946 and rose to the rank of captain. As director, she oversaw over 10,000 enlisted women and 1,000 commissioned officers.

She left the Coast Guard in 1946 shortly before the SPARS were demobilized. For her service she was awarded the Legion of Merit.

After the war, Stratton served as director of personnel for the International Monetary Fund (1947–1950). In 1950, she became national executive director of the Girl Scouts of the USA, a post she held until 1960. In 1958, she appeared as a guest challenger on the TV panel show “To Tell The Truth”. Stratton died in West Lafayette, Indiana at the age of 107. She was interred at Grandview Cemetery next to her parents.

The Women Officers Professional Association (now the Sea Services Leadership Association) named its Captain Dorothy Stratton Leadership Award in her honor. Created in 2001, the award is presented to a female officer (W-2 to O-4) of the Coast Guard who shows leadership and mentorship and who shares the Coast Guard’s core values. In 2005, the Ottawa University Alumni Association awarded its Outstanding Achievement Award to Stratton.

In 2008, the Coast Guard named its third National Security Cutter the USCGC Stratton (WMSL-752) in her honor.

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