First Women Inducted into the U.S. Air Force
Staff Sergeant Esther McGowin Blake is seen as the “first lady” of the Air Force. She raised her right hand and enlisted in the first minute women were allowed to join the U.S. Air Force on July 8, 1948. In doing so, she paved the way for a new generation of women’s military service.
During World War II, Blake had served in the Women’s Army Corp following the news that her son, a pilot, was missing in action. She hoped that by taking on clerical work, she was freeing a soldier to fight, which might help end the war sooner. Luckily for Blake, both of her sons returned home from the war.
The U.S. Air Force was established as its own branch of the military (no longer a part of the Army) in September 1947. The following June, President Harry Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, which finally allowed women to serve as permanent members of the armed forces.
Blake was joined by 11 other women in joining the Air Force on that first day. Nearly 30 years later, in 1976, women were admitted to the military as equals to men, and the separate women’s service was abolished. Today, women make up about 20% of active duty Air Force members and serve in almost every field available.
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