PARRIS ISLAND, SC --
Seventy seven years ago, the statue known as ‘Molly Marine’ was originally commissioned by Marine Technical Sgt. Charles Gresham, a recruiter, in hopes to increase enlistment of females into the military during World War II. At that time, American service men needed to be out in battle. Women were beginning to join and take over their jobs on the home front to “free a man to fight”.
Molly Marine was the first statue of a woman in uniform, and it was erected on Nov. 10, 1943 in New Orleans, La. This was the year the womens’ reserve was activated as well as the 168th Marine Corps’ birthday.
Two more statues were raised, one in 2000 in Quantico Va., where female officers are made, and one in 1999 on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, where enlisted female Marines are made.
At the end of every female platoon’s training cycle, the recruits are asked to vote for which fellow recruit they feel best embodies the qualities and values of a Marine throughout recruit training. This is a practice unique to the 4th Recruit Training Battalion. This Marine is to be given the Molly Marine Award, given from the Women Marines Association.
“It’s a motivational tool,” says Staff Sgt. Alexis Blankenship, with the 4th Recruit Training Battalion. “The recruits vote amongst themselves and choose who they think best emulate the characteristics of a future Marine.”
Photo by Lance Cpl. Michelle Brudnicki
The Molly Marine statue stands on Boulevard de France on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island S.C., Dec 16, 2020. The statue is a replica of the original statue in New Orleans, La. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Michelle Brudnicki)
During their last week on the island, new female Marines gather around the Molly Marine statue on Boulevard de France and the selected Marines are presented with the award during a ceremony by Serenity Button, a prior service Marine who represents the Woman Marines Association. This Marine receives a challenge coin, and their name is recorded into the national archive of Molly Marines past.
“Molly stands as a role model and a reminder of what all Marines should strive to be.” Serenity Button, a prior service Marine who represents the Woman Marines Association.
“All Marines have the potential to emulate the values that Molly Marine represents.”
Molly Marine serves as a symbol of pride for the women, past and present, who have earned the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor. The book she carries is said to carry the history of female Marines and the binoculars are used to look toward the future of the Marine Corps. The award is given with pride to the deserving Marines, and is used to promote and continue forward the rich history of women in the Marine Corps.