Col. Ruth Cheney Streeter served in the Marine Corps as the first director of the U.S. Marine Corps Women’s Reserve. She took up the positions in February 1943 after being rejected from flying organizations such as the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) and the Women’s Flying Training Detachment, both organizations which preceded the Womens Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), and the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services.
Streeter was born in October 1895 in Brookline, Massachusetts. She grew up attending schools abroad and graduated from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania in 1918. Out of college, she met the man she’d marry and together moved to New Jersey, where they’d raise four children.
During the Depression, Streeter worked with humanitarian aid, volunteering in public health, unemployment relief and care for the elderly in her community. In 1940, she transitioned out of welfare development positions and pursued a lifelong dream of attaining her pilot’s license.
Streeter at the time had two sons in the Navy and one in the Army, and she, too, desired to join the military to put her flying skills to use. However, after being rejected several times from the budding women’s branches due to her age, she applied for the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, where she subsequently became its director. As director, she sought to promote more opportunities for women in the Marine Corps besides the traditional clerical and administrative roles.
Streeter, and other female officers, faced backlash from many male Marines and public skepticism about women serving during World War II. She toured the country with her public relations officer to ease public concerns and advocate for women’s rights and place in the military. She soon developed the formal goal to have 18,000 women in the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve. In June 1944, only a few months after she was promoted to colonel, the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve reached its goal of employing 831 female officers and 17,714 enlisted—for an authorized strength of 18,000 women.
For her service, Streeter was awarded the American Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal and the Legion of Merit, the highest award received by a female Marine during the war.
Streeter died September 1990 in Morristown, New Jersey.
We honor her service.
Nominate a Veteran for #VeteranOfTheDay
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? You’re in luck! VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. All it takes is an email to [email protected] with as much information as you can put together, along with some good photos. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.
Writer: Sarah McDonald
Editors: Marisa Bunton, Cate Manning
Researcher: Gabriella Begley
Graphic Designer: Kiki Kelley