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North Jersey History Center Online Exhibits

Ruth Cheney Streeter

Ruth Cheney Streeter

Col. Ruth Cheney Streeter

Tales of an Ancient Marine, Ruth Cheney Streeter

Ruth is just one of many women from New Jersey that served in the armed forces, and today there are close to 30,000 female veterans of the armed forces living in New Jersey.  Born in Brookline, Massachusetts to Charles Paine Cheney and Mary Ward (Lyon) Cheney, Ruth Cheney Streeter married Thomas W Streeter (b. 1884-d. 1965) in 1917, a year before graduating from Bryn Mawr. In 1920, Ruth and Thomas moved into a house on Sussex Avenue in Morris Township where they had three sons, Frank, Henry and Thomas Jr and one daughter, Lillian.

Streeter was one of 300 American women to earn her pilot’s license before World War Two.  Ruth also earned a commercial pilot’s license in 1942 and was a member of the Civil Air Patrol and the North Jersey squadron of the New Jersey Civil Air Defense Services, in addition to becoming the first and only woman to serve on the New Jersey Defense Council’s Committee on Aviation.

In 1943, Streeter became the principal Director of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, and first woman to be given the rank of Colonel in the United States Marine Corps.  She was an adviser to the Director of Personnel on Matters concerning the Women’s Reserve and had authority over three women officers that served in her office.  However, there were 1,000 officers and 18,000 enlisted women in the USMCWR. “Its members served at all the large Marine Corps Posts and Air Stations on the East Coast and West Coast and in Hawaii; and they performed almost all types of work which did not involve heavy lifting or combat duty.” (Streeter, Tales of An Ancient Marine, pg. 17).  

General Alexander Vandegrift, commander of the 1st Marine Division said that “The Women’s Reserve functioned splendidly and fulfilled in every way the purposes for which it was organized.  It established a record of character, conduct, and efficiency which could not have been excelled and would have been hard to equal.  It met fully those high standards of dependability, efficiency, and devotion to duty which are traditional in the Marine Corps.” (Streeter, Tales of An Ancient Marine, pg. 17)  She resigned 4 years after the United States entered the Second World War, on December 7, 1945.

For more on Ruth Cheney Streeter, who continued her service to her community and state until late in her life visit the North Jersey History and Genealogy Center to view her book Tales of An Ancient Marine (Morristown, NJ: Ruth Cheney Streeter, ca. 1970); Reminisces of Ruth Cheney Streeter, Col-USMCR (Ret.) (Typescript of Interviews by Thomas W. Mason, April-July 1979) and our Streeter Family File.

Major Streeter with a class of Women Control Tower Operators at Atlanta Naval Air Station, 1943

Major Streeter with a class of Women Control Tower Operators at Atlanta Naval Air Station, 1943

Tales of An Ancient Marine, Ruth Cheney Streeter

Lieutenant Colonel Margert Eaton, Director Canadian Women's Army Corps, visits Camp Lejeune, October 1944.

Lieutenant Colonel Margert Eaton, Director Canadian Women's Army Corps, visits Camp Lejeune, October 1944.
Colonel Streeter, Colonel Eaton, Major Towle, Aide to Colonel Eaton

Tales of an Ancient Marine, Ruth Cheney Streeter