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The Founding of the Women Marines Association

In the Beginning

Photos courtesy of Theresa Sousa Convention 1960 in Denver, CO

Photos courtesy of Theresa Sousa
Convention 1960 in Denver, CO

At the 1958 February Anniversary Luncheon in the Statler Hotel in Los Angeles, Jean Durfee announced her idea for a reunion of Women Marines. She enlisted the help of Marjorie Miller and Helen Hannah Campbell. Before any real progress was made Jean relocated in Bailey, Colorado.

She continued to pursue her plans for a reunion. She organized a group of former women Marines in the Denver, area, Marion Hooper Swope, Mary Jeane Olson Nelson, June F. Hansen, Lois Lighthall, Ila Doolittle Clark and Barbra Kees Meeks. She contacted Meg Young Dawes of the Scuttlebutt Gang – Theresa ―Sue‖ Sousa – USMC Reserve and obtained mailing lists from any and all sources that would make one available.
The Denver Committee incorporated under Colorado law and chose the name Women Marines Association.

Photos courtesy of Theresa Sousa Convention 1960 in Denver, CO

Photos courtesy of Theresa Sousa
Convention 1960 in Denver, CO

In July 1960 at the Shirley-Savoy Hotel in Denver, Colorado, 125 Women marines assembled for the first national reunion. They established a permanent association, defined its purpose, set up bylaws and elected national officers.

Photo Courtesy of Theresa Sousa Front Row L-R Chaplain - Capt Cj Covert, USN Secretary - Jean Reed President - Genevive Dooner Vice President - Helen Hannah Treasurer - Majorie Miller Director - Jean Durfee Back Row L-R Directors - H Spicer, M. Gartlan, M. Hirte, V Laley, M. Ferguson, T. Sousa Legal Officer - Vesta Skehan Historian - Frances Hill Assistant Secretary - Mary J. Nelson Public Relations - Jean Pace

Photo Courtesy of Theresa Sousa Front Row L-R Chaplain – Capt Cj Covert, USN Secretary – Jean Reed President – Genevive Dooner Vice President – Helen Hannah Treasurer – Majorie Miller Director – Jean Durfee Back Row L-R Directors – H Spicer, M. Gartlan, M. Hirte, V Laley, M. Ferguson, T. Sousa Legal Officer – Vesta Skehan Historian – Frances Hill Assistant Secretary – Mary J. Nelson Public Relations – Jean Pace

The slate of officers was: President Genevieve Dooner – Vice President Helen Hannah Campbell – Secretary Jean Reed – Assistant Secretary Mary Jean Nelson – Treasurer Marjorie Miller – Historian Francis Hill – Legal Officer Vesta Skehan – Public Relations Officer Jean Pace – Directors Jean Durfee, Helen Spicer, Margaret Gartlan, Margo Hirte, Virginia Caley, Martrese Ferguson, and Theresa Sousa. Chaplain C. J. Covert, Captain USN was chosen to be the official Chaplain of the newly formed association and it’s only male member.

By action of the Board of Directors the initial dues period was extended and all members joining for the period July 1960 thru May 31, 1962 were Charter members. The term closed with 678 Charter members.
It has been the policy of the Women Marines Association to recognize this Charter membership whether or not the member has maintained continuous membership.

Members in the Washington DC area adopted Bylaws on July 30, 1962 to organize the first chapter. Charter members were Betty Ann Adams, Elsie Anderson, Ruth Broe, Virginia Caley, Joyce Capps, Grace Fields, Patricia Maas, Louise Pezzulli, Gail Reals, Theresa Sousa, Barbara Wagner and Jenny Wrenn.

The chapter charter was ratified on August 6, 1964 along with six additional chapters.

In 1961 Margaret Carte, Convention Chairman, asked Emma Holmes to contact the World War I women Marines and invite them to participate with World War II Women Marines in the 2nd Biennial Convention in 1962.
Emma’s first contact was Florence Gertler Miller who had been a Gray Lady at the Bay Pines Veterans Hospital where Emma had been a patient. Florence gave her the names and addressed of three of the girls and they in turn gave her names and addresses and so on until all leads had run out. Lela Liebrand Rodgers, mother of the famous Ginger Rodgers, was able to find a 1919 list of names and hometowns of about 50. Assuming that most had changed their names by marriage, she asked the help of the small town postmaster and the Chamber of Commerce in larger towns to locate relatives who could give her information. In her 1966 report as WMA’s WWI Representative Emma stated that she had located or accounted for 106 of the 305 Women Marines who had been recruited in 1918.
She maintains contact with these ladies. Some of them are personal friends and all of them as she terms it have been adopted as relatives.

Photos courtesy of Theresa Sousa Convention 1960 in Denver, CO

Photos courtesy of Theresa Sousa
Convention 1960 in Denver, CO

This first portion is excerpted from the original 25 year history of WMA as published in 1985.

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