, Salem, MA


March 26, 2014

Column: Remembering Salem's role in introducing women to the Coast Guard

In July 1943, 34 members of the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve arrived in Salem to provide shore duty for the Coast Guard Air Station on Winter Island. Called SPARS, which is a contraction of Semper Paratus, the Coast Guard’s motto, and its English translation to “Always Ready,” the women would free Coast Guard men for sea duty during World War II.

The previous year, President Franklin D. Roosevelt allowed women to serve in the Coast Guard and other branches of the military for the first time. By 1943, more than 400,000 women had signed up for the Coast Guard, Army, Navy and Marines. Requirements to serve as a SPAR were similar to those of the Navy WAVES. Women could not be married to a Coastguardsman or have children under the age of 18, must be between the ages of 20 and 50, and must have a college degree or two years of college and administrative experience.

To prepare for the SPARS’ arrival, according to the Salem Evening News, Salem’s chapter of the American Red Cross secured recreation rooms knowing that the women “will be a long way from home, in surroundings that will be strange and in work relatively new to them, (who will) require facilities within the post where they can relax when off duty and the Salem chapter is anxious to make it a place of work of which Salem can be proud.”

Among the women to serve at Coast Guard Air Station Salem was Ensign Edna Mae Lloyd of Worcester, who was the first woman officer of the Women’s Reserve to be assigned to an air station. Her principal job in Salem was “to operate a highly confidential air communications machine essential to Coast Guard patrol bomber operations,” according to the Salem Evening News.

The North Shore women who served in Salem were Marie Freeman of Salem, Mildred Maerz of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Florence Amirault of Marblehead, Dorothy Coyne of Lynn and Adeline McGovern of Lynn.

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