On this day in 1918, the United States Marine Corps enlisted women for the first time. The first to do so was Opha Mae Johnson.
At the time, World War I was raging. While much of the women’s rights movement opposed the war, most saw allowing women the same right to serve in the military as a step towards complete equality.
Johnson entered the Marine Corps reserve. Though she was first in line, a total of 305 women enlisted that day. None of these women, however, were allowed to serve in a war zone. They only served in non-combat areas as cooks, secretaries or other such jobs.
The struggle for women’s equality in the military continues. It wasn’t until 1967 during the Vietnam atrocities that Barbara Dulinsky became the first female Marine sent to a war zone. She joined the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam in what was then Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City. Now, women are in 93 percent of occupational fields in the Marines, but often face discrimination and difficult conditions.