1st woman in the U.S. Navy
Coast Guard Women’s Reserve
National Girl Scouts Executive Director
Dorothy C. Stratton (1899 – 2006)
Dorothy C. Stratton was a trailblazer throughout her career, but is perhaps best known for being Director of SPARS, the United States Coast Guard Women’s Reserve during World War II. Prior to joining the military, Stratton was Purdue University’s first full-time Dean of Women (1933 -1940). When Stratton greatly expanded the female curriculum beyond Home Economics, female enrollment at Purdue nearly tripled. She was made a full professor in 1940, but took a leave of absence in 1942 to enter the armed forces.
Groundbreaker: U.S. Navy
Stratton was the first woman to be accepted for service in the U.S. Navy after President Franklin Roosevelt signed the amendment creating a women’s reserve program. After completing her initial training, she was assigned as the Assistant to the Commanding Officer of the Radio School for enlisted WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service) at Madison, WI. On November 14, 1942, she transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard and became the director of the Women’s Reserve.
Her major and lasting contribution to the Coast Guard was the development of the SPAR program, which allowed women to join the Coast Guard for the first time in history. Enlistment in the program grew rapidly in a short span of time; during the remaining years of the war more than 10,000 enlisted, and 1,000 officers served their country through this program. By 1944, one out of every 15 persons enlisted in the Coast Guard was a woman.
Leader of Women and Girls
After the war, Stratton became the first Director of Personnel at the International Monetary Fund, serving in that capacity until 1950. She then went on to become the National Executive Director of the Girl Scouts of America, remaining in that position for ten years before retiring in 1960. In 2001, the Coast Guard Women’s Leadership Association named the “Captain Dorothy Stratton Leadership Award” in her honor. Dorothy Stratton died in 2006, at the age of 107.
Did You Know…
Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers (R MA) introduced legislation creating the women’s military units and fought for their equal pay and benefits.