Born this day in 1895: Ruth Cheney Streeter (1895–1990), first woman major in the U.S. Marine Corps and the first director of the United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve.
Ruth Cheney was born into an affluent family in Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1895. After attending a French finishing school and Bryn Marw College, Cheney married Thomas Winthrop Streeter in 1917. She devoted much of her time to community affairs, social welfare work, relief work, and civil defense, serving on New Jersey’s Defense Council on Aviation. In 1942 she earned a commercial pilot’s license. Streeter joined New Jersey’s Civil Air Patrol that year, but was relegated to scheduling flights for the men. Desperate to fly, she applied to the WASPs five times, but was refused each time because of her age. In 1943 her commitment, community service, and connections paid off. She was tapped to head the newly formed U.S. Marine Corps Women’s Reserves, becoming the first woman major of the Marine Corps. In a little over a year she achieved the rank of colonel. Under her administration, the Women’s Reserved reached 831 officers and 17,714 enlisted. When she resigned her commission at the end of 1945 the commandant of the Marine Corps lauded her outstanding service and commended her for setting “a standard of excellence which, in [his] opinion, could not have been excelled and would be difficult to equal.” Colonel Streeter was a recipient of the Legion of Merit, the American Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.