RUTH CHENEY STREETER, USMCWR
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Colonel Ruth Cheney Streeter, the first Director of the United States Marine Corps Women's Reserve, died 30 September 1990 in Morristown, New Jersey. She earned the Legion of Merit for "outstanding services" during World War II and served from the time the Women's Reserve was activated on 13 February 1943, until 7 December 1945, when she resigned her commission.
The colonel was awarded the Legion of Merit on 4 February 1946. The accompanying citation states in part: "Exercising judgment, initiative and ability, Colonel Streeter rendered distinctive service in directing the planning and organization of the Women's Reserve of the Marine Corps and skillfully integrating women into the basic structure of the Corps, carefully selected, trained and properly assigned them as replacements for men in shore establishments."
Born 2 October 1895 at Brookline, Massachusetts, Colonel Streeter attended schools abroad and graduated from Bryn Mawr College at Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, in 1918. During the depression years following 1930, she worked in public health and welfare, unemployment relief and old-age assistance in her home state of New Jersey. She was one-time President of the Welfare Board in Morris County, New Jersey. She also served as a member of the New Jersey State Relief Council, New Jersey Commission of Inter-State Cooperation, and New Jersey Board of Children's Guardians.
Long interested in aviation, the colonel completed a course in aeronautics at New York University and served as adjutant of Group 221, Civil Air Patrol. She learned to fly in 1940 and in 1941 became the only woman member of the Committee on Aviation of the New Jersey Defense Council. The same year she also acted as chairman of the Citizen's Committee for Army and Navy, Inc., for Fort Dix, New Jersey. She received her commercial pilot's license in April 1942.
Colonel Streeter was the first woman to hold the rank of major in the Marine Corps. She was appointed to that rank on 29 January 1943. She was promoted to lieutenant colonel on 22 November 1943, and to the rank of colonel 1 February 1944.
When Colonel Streeter left the Marine Corps in December, 1945, General A.A. Vandegrift then Commandant of the Marine Corps, wrote her a commendatory letter, which is quoted in part:
"…It is with deep regret that I contemplate your leaving, and I cannot let the occasion pass without conveying to you some expression of my admiration and appreciation of your outstanding service as Director of the Marine Corps Women's Reserve from its inception in January 1943 until the present time.
"Over that period, the Marine Corps Women's Reserve grew in size to a maximum strength of 831 officers and 17,714 enlisted. It set a standard of excellence which, in my opinion, could not have been excelled and would be difficult to equal."
Colonel Streeter is joint donor with her mother of the Cheney Award, given annually to some member of the United States Air Force for "acts of valor or extreme fortitude or self-sacrifice." The award commemorates the memory of Lieutenant William H. Cheney, the colonel's brother, who was killed in an aviation accident in World War II.
In addition to the Legion of Merit, Colonel Streeter's medals include the American Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.