Engage

T
Logo
F
Logo
T
Logo
T
Logo
T
Logo
T
Logo
T
Logo
T
Logo
F
Logo
T
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
Facebook
1,980,030
Like Us
Twitter
398,414
Follow Us
YouTube Google+ Blog RSS Instagram

Blake paved way for thousands of Air Force women

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AFNS) -- The women of today's Air Force can look back with pride to Staff Sgt. Esther McGowin Blake.

"We consider her the first lady of the Air Force," said William Chivalette, the curator of the Enlisted Heritage Hall at Gunter Annex here. "She raised her right hand to enlist in the U.S. Air Force on the first minute of the first hour of the first day, July 8, 1948, that women could join the United States Air Force, created nine months before on September 17, 1947."

Less than a month before, on June 12, 1948, President Harry S. Truman had signed the Women's Armed Services Integration Act (Public Law 625-80), which authorized women to serve as regular members of the U.S. armed forces.

Born on July 7, 1897, in Escambia, Ala., Blake served as a civilian employee of the Army Air Forces Air Service Command at the Miami Air Depot, Miami, Fla., now a part of the Miami International Airport, after World War II started.

In March 1944, she enlisted in the Women's Army Corps after the War Department notified her that her oldest son, 1st Lt. Julius Blake, a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot in England, had been shot down over Belgium and was reported missing. He remained "missing in action" for nine months.

Her younger son, 1st Lt. Thomas Blake, who flew a B-25 Mitchell bomber in Italy, later said that his mother joined the Women's Army Corps hoping to free a Soldier from clerical work to fight, thus speeding the end of the war.

"If I can do this," Blake said, "my efforts will be worthwhile."

While Thomas was also shot down after 50 combat missions Blake saw both of her sons return home by the end of the war with only minor wounds and many decorations.

During the war, Blake served at several bases throughout the U.S., including one year in Alaska near the Aleutians and in the Yukon territory. She separated from the Army in November 1945 and returned to her civil service job in Miami. However, heeding a recall for women in the military services, she reenlisted in the Army in April 1947. The Army assigned her to Fort McPherson near Atlanta, Ga.

The Air Force became a separate military service on Sept. 17, 1947. After the enactment of the Women's Armed Services Integration Act on June 12, 1948, the Air Force within a month established the Women in the Air Force as a separate organization to oversee the training and administration of WAF. At the time, Congress had limited the number of women in the Air Force to 300 officers and 4,000 enlisted members, assigned primarily to clerical and medical career fields. The Air Force inactivated the WAF in June 1976.

At the first available opportunity to return to her roots, Blake transferred from the Army to the Air Force on July 8, 1948, minutes after the start of the first duty day for the WAF, along with 11 other women at Fort McPherson. She remained on active duty with the Air Force until 1954, when she separated because of a disability and went to work as a civil servant at the Veterans Administration Regional Headquarters in Montgomery, Ala.

Blake died on Oct. 17, 1979, at 82 years of age, at the Veterans Hospital in Tuskegee, Ala., among fellow veterans.

On Oct. 1, 1987, the Air Force named one of the student dormitories at the Air Force Senior NCO Academy at Gunter Annex, Ala., in her honor.

"In singling out and recognizing in such a special way one of your own, you pay respect and tribute not only to Air Force Staff Sgt. Esther McGowin Blake, you honor all of us who knew and loved her and who were privileged to share her life," her son Thomas said at the dedication ceremony.

"It's never easy being the first. The trail that Esther Blake blazed made it possible for other women to follow," said Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Horn, the Air University command chief. "Her success opened the doors to allow future women the opportunity to serve with pride. Our Air Force is emphatically better for her efforts."

Today, nearly 20 percent of the active-duty members of the Air Force are women. In comparison to the women of Staff Sgt. Blake's Air Force, women in today's Air Force serve in 99 percent of the available career fields, including as security forces members and combat pilots.

"Staff Sgt. Blake's spirit of service to country and duty to the Air Force lives on in the women of today's Air Force," Chivalette said.
USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.
comments powered by Disqus