HomeNewsArticle Display

Esther Blake: First enlisted woman in the Air Force

Staff Sgt. Esther Blake: First woman in the Air Force. (Graphic by Sylvia Saab)

Staff Sgt. Esther Blake: First woman enlistee in the Air Force. (Graphic by Sylvia Saab)

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (AFNS) -- Staff Sgt. Esther McGowin Blake has the distinction of being the "first woman in the Air Force." She enlisted in the first minute of the first hour of the first day regular Air Force duty was authorized for women on July 8, 1948.

Blake originally enlisted in March 1944, in Miami in the Army Air Forces, served one year in the Alaskan division and was discharged in November 1945. She reenlisted in April 1947 and was assigned to the ground force but seized the first opportunity to return to the Army Air Forces. Service in the nation's armed forces was nothing new for Mrs. Blake.

She supported the war by working at the Miami Air Depot as a civilian employee. Blake was a widow. She joined the Women's Army Corps when she found out her eldest son, Lt. Julius Blake, was reported missing. He was a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot out of England and had been shot down over Belgium. Her other son, Lt. Tom Blake was serving in B-25 Mitchell medium bombers in Italy -- he was also shot down at a later time.

At the time Blake was quoted in the Miami Herald as saying that her reason for joining the WACs was the hope of helping free a soldier from clerical work to fight, thus speeding the end of the war.

"If I can do this, "she said, "My efforts will be worthwhile."

During the months and years that followed, she saw both her sons return from combat with only minor wounds and heavily decorated.

She was assigned to several bases throughout the United States and in Alaska and the Yukon Territory near the Aleutians. She separated from service briefly and return to her civilian job in Miami in the mid-40s; however, she heeded a recall for women in service and returned to an Army assignment at Fort McPherson near Atlanta.

It was during this assignment that the Air Force became a separate branch of the service and women in the Air Force were authorized. She remained active with the Air Force until 1954 when she separated and went to work with the civil service at the Veterans Regional Headquarters in Montgomery, Ala.

Mrs. Blake, the first woman in the Air Force, died Oct. 17, 1979. In 1987, the Air Force Senior NCO Academy at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., named one of their student dormitories in her honor. 

(Courtesy of the Enlisted Heritage Research Institute)

Engage

Facebook Twitter
RT @LukeAFB: Starting the week off with a F-16 slow-mo! ✈ #slowmomonday #aviation #jets #f16 #fighterjet #usaf #sunrise https://t.co/toXXl…
RT @AETCommand: Airmen from the 29th AMU check over the first MQ-9 Reaper to be transported through ferry flight, Jan. 8, 2020, on @Holloma
RT @DeptofDefense: The cold won’t slow down the @usairforce! The Air Force is working with the @usarmyccdc to test cold weather gear and e…
RT @USAFCENT: GROUND SUPPORT | USAF Airmen assigned to the 379th AEMS worked alongside the 746th EAS to load cargo onto & launch a C-130 at…
RT @USAFHealth: #DidYouKnow, Air Force Expeditionary Medicine brings leading-edge medicine directly into battle providing injured personnel…
As he served, let us serve. Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day. https://t.co/SuE0D4UAnI
RT @AirNatlGuard: "We talk about lining ourselves up with our sister services and joint efforts to make sure we accomplish our mission; the…
RT @AFResearchLab: The year is 1947. The @usairforce officially broke the sound barrier with the Bell X-1 aircraft. This incredible feat w…
RT @theF35JPO: Congratulations to the @AusAirForce for completing their #F35 training mission at @LukeAFB! 🇦🇺 ⚡ Learn more 🔗 https://t.co/2…
RT @CENTCOM: A French Rafale conducts nighttime air refueling with a U.S. Air Force KC-10 Extender assigned to the 380th Air Expeditionary…
RT @DeptofDefense: Jumping from a plane becomes a big step toward friendship. 301 soldiers and airmen from @USArmyReserve, @usairforce, and…
Explosive Disposal Ordnance (EOD) Airmen are often assigned to some of the most dangerous missions and perform tact… https://t.co/xYc9Ip5psn
Start this year by supporting your #Airmen in their pursuit of #resiliency. Learn about common triggers of invisibl… https://t.co/6gJSfJKvcK
RT @OHNationalGuard: The @180thFW hosted members of the Nigerian Air Force recently Officers visited the 180FW in search of #bestpractice
RT @HiAirGuard: Airmen from 154th Security Forces Squadron became first responders during a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear…
RT @US_SOCEUR: U.S. #airmen assigned to the 352d Special Operations Wing perform maintenance on a CV-22B #Osprey aircraft in Szolnok, #Hung
RT @HQ_AFMC: The @AFResearchLab s X-60A program achieved a key developmental #milestone with the completion of integrated vehicle propulsio…
RT @DeptofDefense: If you want to get there as fast as possible, don’t stop for gas. ⛽ That’s why the @usairforce relies on airmen like Tec…
RT @DeptofDefense: Press ▶️ to learn more about @USAFCENT, the command that provides air & space warfighting capabilities to help defeat v…
Airmen with the Puerto Rico Air National Guard provide support at the “tent cities” to support Task Force South and… https://t.co/zg2yT0LqpS