In 1943, Minnie Spotted Wolf, a Blackfoot Indian, broke the barriers of both race and gender when she became the first American Indian to enlist in the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve.
Gerardetta England, Spotted Wolf’s daughter, said her mother started thinking about joining the military after the U.S. entered World War II when she was 18, but was discouraged by a recruiter who told her “the war was really not for women. But Mom really wanted to go into the military to serve her country. Her brother had died, and she knew nobody else in the family would be able to serve.”
When Spotted Wolf was finally ready to enlist, her father died. Her mother urged her to pursue her dream. According to England, her mother told her, “Your country needs you more.”
Spotted Wolf’s ranch living and hard work served her well as a heavy-equipment operator for the Marines, and her unique background drew significant attention during the war.
England said, “Mom was proud of who she was. She wasn’t in the military just for herself, but for the Indian people. She wanted others to know who she was and where she came from.”