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First Woman to serve as a Marine

May 23, 2019

 

 

She was just five foot five and weighted about 95 pounds when she joined the Marines. Peter Johnson of the Great Falls Tribune (Montana) describes her: 

 

"Minnie Spotted Wolf, a slender, but tough family ranch hand from Heart Butte was one of the early women determined to play her part. She is believed to be the first Native American woman to join the Marine Corps Women's Reserve in September 1943.”

 

Born on January 1, 1923, she was a member of the Blackfoot tribe. Spotted Wolf spent her childhood working on her father's ranch in Heart Butte, Montana, where she cut fence posts, drove two ton trucks and broke horses. Male military friends taught her how to drive and repair other vehicles. She first expressed an interest in joining the army when she was aged 18, shortly after the US entered into World War 2 at the end of 1941. However she was initially discouraged by a recruitment officer who told her that the war was 'not for women'. 

 

Spotted Wolf was eventually accepted into the Marine Corps Women's Reserve in July 1943, making her the first Native American female Marine. She almost did not accept the post as her father was dying from a horse riding accident, however her mother and sister strongly encouraged her to pursue her ambitions.

 

She underwent rigorous boot camp training at Camp Lejeune, during which she gained 15 pounds of weight from the diet and rigorous exercise. She later described the training as "hard, but not too hard" given her background on the ranch. "She said she was soon able to keep up with the guys, and could take apart and rebuild an engine," her daughter said.

After completion of her training Spotted Wolf went on to serve 4 years in the Marines in California and Hawaii. She drove trucks loaded with heavy equipment, a job normally reserved for men, and also sometimes worked as a jeep driver for visiting generals. Spotted Wolf's career quickly gathered media attention and she was featured in numerous news stories, and even her own comic book, to promote the war effort. 

Following her discharge in 1947, Spotted Wolf returned to Montana where she married a farmer named Robert England with whom she had four children. She attended college to qualify as a teacher and spent the next 29 years teaching in tiny country reservation schools throughout Montana.  She usually kept a horse for riding to her various posts.

 

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