By Major General Dee McWilliams
The Women in Military Service for America Memorial (Women’s Memorial) is the only major national memorial honoring all women who have defended America throughout history. We are proud to recognize their devoted patriotism and bravery as an integral part of our national heritage.
The Women’s Memorial preserves a valuable piece of American history in its world-class archive, which strives to recognize those women who have served and defended America’s integrity throughout history. The Women’s Memorial also maintains the Memorial Register, which guarantees each registered woman’s individual story a permanent place in America’s history. Join us: Register today!
“Today we honor Dr. Olivia Hooker, who recently passed away at age 103.
Dr. Hooker helped break down others’ perception of courage throughout her whole life. As a child, she survived the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. She went on to become the first Black woman to enlist in the Coast Guard in WWII. After the war, she earned a master’s degree at Columbia University and a doctorate at the University of Rochester. She was a professor until she retired at age 87.
“You see, there were no people of our race in the Navy—no girls—we had been campaigning for that privilege, but nobody joined. I kept watching the newspapers and I thought, to campaign for certain civil rights and then not use them is very feudal. Somebody ought to be joining up after the campaign, but nobody did!
“I thought if I did go, and survive, maybe someone else will come. Although I had applied for the Navy, they kept writing back saying there is a technicality. They didn’t tell me what the technicality was. So, I said let me try the Coast Guard. And the Coast Guard recruiter was just so welcoming, she wanted to be the first one to enroll an African American.
“I didn’t know anything about the military going in, and I didn’t know many people who were not of my hue, and it was good for me to mix with other people and find out how they thought, and what they were like. It taught me a lot about order and priorities.
I’d like to see more of us realizing that our country needs us. I’d like to see more girls consider spending some time in the military. It’s really nice to have people with different points of view and different kinds of upbringing; the world would really prosper from more of that.”
Our offices serve as a repository for the memorabilia of women who have served in or with the U.S. Armed Forces from the American Revolution to the present time. Our historians and curators conduct seminal research on the history of servicewomen, placing their experience within its historical context.
Major General Dee McWilliams is the president of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation.