Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of women serving in the Coast Guard!

By Chief Petty Officer Erica Pierre, Enlisted Advisor, Office of Diversity & Inclusion


On Dec. 5th, 1973, Congress passed Public Law 93-174, allowing women to enlist in the Coast Guard, marking a decisive step towards gender equality in the service. Challenging longstanding policies of gender segregation, women were finally able to fully integrate into our service and began a proud tradition of standing the watch.  

The first two active-duty female enlistees - Yeoman First Class Wanda May Parr and Yeoman Second Class Margaret A. Blackman - were sworn into the regular Coast Guard in Yorktown, Virginia, on Dec. 7th, 1973. And the first active duty commissioned officer CWO Alice T. Jefferson was sworn in by the then Commandant, Adm. Chester Bender, at Coast Guard Headquarters.     

Shortly thereafter, the first Boot Camp Company of women, Sierra 89 began their time at Training Center Cape May in January 1974. These women marked the beginning of a long line of notable firsts in USCG history!  

Since then, women have continued to play a major role in the United States Coast Guard, making incredible contributions to help shape the service and work towards a more inclusive workforce! Review the Powerpoint to see a glimpse of those trailblazers that persevered, paving the way so that those serving today could achieve new heights within the service!  

50th Anniversary Commemorative Presentation.pptx (sharepoint-mil.us) 

On Tuesday, Dec. 5th, 2023, Dr. Mischell Navarro, the Coast Guard’s Senior Advisor for Diversity and Inclusion, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, hosted an event to reflect on the impact of Public Law 93-174. The event included a fireside chat with the Commandant, Master Chief Petty Officer Ann Logan, and CWO Romana Dubinka (ret.), as well as a moving performance by the USCGA Fairwinds Choir.  

During the event, guest speaker and historian, Donna Vojvodich relayed a story of a Coast Guard SPAR who ultimately transitioned into the regular Coast Guard and served until her retirement in 1975.  

“In 1944, Captain Eleanor L'Ecuyer was so frustrated with her clerk job, that her boss told her to take a walk, and when she returned, she had signed up to be a SPAR recruit,” said Donna Vojvodich. “On her first day of boot camp, she asked herself, “What have I done?” L'Ecuyer became a pharmacist's mate who resuscitated a dying man. After the war, she earned her law degree and rejoined the Women's Reserve in 1951, serving until 1975, all while working to change many policies that impacted women. "What Have I Done?” the recruit asked. In 1977, she answered her question: "I helped work on legislation drafted to allow enlistment and commission for women in the regular Coast Guard. It was signed and passed in December 1973. Up until then all women had to go in the reserve, now they can pick where they want to go.""

Many notable service women, active duty and retired, were also in attendance to celebrate!

Vice Adm. Sally Brice-O'Hara (ret.), who has the distinction of being the 27th Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard, only the second woman ever to hold that position at that time.

Capt. Jane Hartley was assigned to the Second Coast Guard District to head one of the newly formed District Response Assist Teams. There she coordinated pollution response training for all units in a 22-state region.  

Cmdr. Kathy Atwood (ret.), who traveled all the way from Portland, Oregon, enlisted in 1974, went to BM A school in 1975, and commissioned in 1979. Cmdr. Atwood served until her retirement in 2000!   

Lt. Tommie Montgomery-Sconiers-Leydsman was the first African American woman officer to enter OCS.  

The Stokley sisters and their cousin Hilda are a Coast Guard family through and through! All joining the Coast Guard in the 1970s, they made history by enlisting in the Coast Guard as pioneering African American women. Their entry was part of a significant initiative aimed at fostering diversity within the service.  

HM2 Sue Priest was one of the first women to fly medevacs out of Cape Cod.  

HS3 Kelly Scheer, received orders to Dental Technician “A” School in Cape May, New Jersey, and saw the dental technician rating merge with the health services technician rating. Both her daughter and son-in-law are currently serving in the Coast Guard!   

So many other notable women have had an enduring impact. I encourage you to view the videos linked below to hear from some of them directly!  

50th Anniversary of Women Serving in the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Reserve 

Chief Warrant Officer Dawn Zabel (ret.) 50th Anniversary ceremony speech 


In the News: 

The Long Blue Line: 50 Years of Women’s Service in the regular Coast Guard! 

Image Gallery

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CGD 24 Wainwright Unknown port; photo taken from quarterdeck of unnamed USCG cutter. Boston? Photo...
USCG patrol boats during Prohibition
"Coast Guard Destroyer Downes (From a Painting by the Destroyer Force Bugle Staff Artist, Marius...
"Ensign Roland making end run, Coast Guard-Marine game, Washington, D.C., 1929." Scanned from...
"1929 - Coast Guard Football Team - 1929. Back Row: -Lieut. Baker, Coast and Manager; Wineke,...
A photo of Coast Guard Destroyer CONYNGHAM on patrol during Prohibition.
Coast Guard Destroyer's baseball team (no date).
Hand-written caption on reverse of photo reads: "Officers and crew of CGC Beale (Navy destroyer...
Hand-written caption on reverse of photo reads: "R R Waesche Sr., CGC Snohomish, Port Angeles, or...
"BEALE (CG-9) (Of the old U.S. Coast Guard Destroyer Force - 1924-1930) An early 20th century...
"Engineroom Force of the Coast Guard Cutter PONTCHARTRAIN. 3-5-29 (1)." CCG Scrapbook (CG...
Copy photo found in the CG Historian's Office Special Collections Archive in the "Uniforms" folder....

U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office
2703 Martin Luther King, Jr., Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20593-7031

U.S. Coast Guard Museum
Coast Guard Academy - Waesche Hall
15 Mohegan Ave
New London, CT 06320-8100

Contacting us:  U.S.C.G. Historian's Office