The fewer; the prouder: 100 years later

One hundred years ago, in 1918, Opha May Johnson became the first woman to (officially*) enlist in the United States Marine Corps. Back then, women were only able to be in the reserves, but she helped to forge the way forward and 30 years later, women were able to enlist as “regular” Marines. Although, in my experience, women Marines are more than regular; women Marines are remarkable!

Of course, as the proud daughter of not one, but two, United States Marines, and think that all Marines are remarkable. This is why marking Marine Corps anniversaries is something I grew up doing. And so when the United States Marine Corps birthday rolls around each year, I mark the day with messages of felicitation on Facebook and Twitter. In fact, “Happy birthday” messages on social media are a yearly occurrence by my folks, my sisters, and myself – along with so many other proud Marines, proud Marine Corps BRATS (children of Marines), and others who are proud of the Marines in their lives.

But on last year’s USMC birthday, my youngest sister’s message brought an unexpected reaction from our Mum. A reaction that I was disappointed I hadn’t had on my own – because I hadn’t noticed what Mum noticed: There were no women Marines in the entire 3-minute video.

You see, my Mum is a proud Marine; a proud woman Marine. And women in the military have been fighting the equality battle along with the rest of us. So Mum was absolutely right to point out that there was an absolute lack of female representation in the video. And the moment Mum made her comment, I felt horrible for not having noticed myself. I mean, I’m meant to be a champion for gender equality. But I didn’t notice it this time. Probably because I was listening to the music (The Marine Corps Hymn, of course) and not really paying attention to the visuals.

And so, I had a wee video chat with Royann about an idea for a new video. I asked Royann if she could help me to bring an idea to reality. I explained that we needed to create a new video of The Marine Corps Hymn with images of women marines. We decided to grab as many photos from Mum’s Facebook page as possible and to ask our pseudo-niece (a proud woman Marine) for photos from her time in active service. And towards the end of the video is a photo of both of my Marine parents with my and my two older sisters, Veronica and Claudia (the younger three hadn’t joined the family yet).

Royann then mixed them all with an uplifting version of the hymn and uploaded them to her YouTube account. (It was all Royann’s doing. I was merely the idea-woman.) The video includes photos of our Mum, our Great Aunt Theresia, our pseudo-niece, Miranda, and some of their fellow Women Marines.

So, here is Royann’s new and improved photo montage of the Marine Corps Hymn: “The Fewer, The Prouder” – just in time to celebrate 100 years of courageous and proud women.

Lucy Brewer claims to have served in the USMC just over 100 years earlier, disguised as a man. There are conflicting opinions on the legitimacy of this claim. But history is full of stories of women serving in the military as “men” – both fabled and factual. Some of these served as transgendered individuals (in which case, they were men even if society didn’t recognise that fact) and others served as men by cross-dressing as a way to circumvent rules against women serving in the military.

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