The Coast Guard Academy celebrated the 101st birthday celebration of Chief Petty Officer Mary Stewart, a veteran of the Coast Guard Semper Paratus Always Ready Women’s Reserves (SPARs), at the Cmdr. Merle J. Smith Consolidated Club, Friday, June 24.
From 1943 to 1946 Stewart served as a yeoman in the SPARs. The first two years of her career were spent in Palm Beach, Florida, where she assisted in training Coast Guard men and women in secretarial skills. Stewart then spent her final year of service in Washington D.C. where she worked as the assistant to a U.S. Navy admiral. Following her Coast Guard career, Stewart spent the next 50 years teaching at the University of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.
The origin of the SPARs dates back to 1942, when legislation was passed and subsequently created the Women’s Reserve. From 1942 until disbandment in 1946, more than 11,000 women volunteered for service. Under the leadership of Capt. Dorothy Stratton, the SPARs commanding officer, the SPARs allowed the Coast Guard to adequately accommodate for logistical and shore-based needs while simultaneously freeing male service members up to serve overseas in the war effort.
After the war, the SPARs were demobilized and the SPARs were all discharged by June 30, 1946. It would not be until 1973 when Congressional legislation officially ended the Women’s Reserve and allowed women to integrate into both the active-duty and reservists ranks of the Coast Guard, where they still serve to this day.
Founded in 1876, the Coast Guard Academy is one of the five U.S. service academies that emphasizes leadership, physical fitness and professional development leading to a guaranteed job upon graduation as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Coast Guard.