A Pioneer for Women in the Military

Mary Hallaren was born in Massachusetts in 1907. She graduated high school in 1925 and attended Boston University. After college, she began her career as a high school teacher. With the entry of the U.S. into World War II, Mary joined the Woman’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). A year later, she had risen to the rank of Captain and led the first women’s battalion to go overseas. Two years later, she was the commander for all WAAC forces in Europe.

When the war was over, she became Director of the WAC (new name) from 1947-1953. There was a strong push to demobilize women from the military but the Army Chief of Staff, Dwight Eisenhower, refused citing the need for women to continue playing a vital role.

When the WAC officially became a part of the Army, she became the first female to be an officer of the regular Army. She then directed the integration of women into the Army and securing for them the rights of male military personnel.

When the Korean War began, she led the war through the conflict. When she left the directorship of the WAC, she continued on active duty until 1960. For her service, she was awarded the Legion of Merit Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Medal, and the Croix de Guerra from the French government.

Although her military service ended in 1960, she continued to serve her nation. She became the Director of the Women in Community Service division of the U.S. Department of Labor. In this capacity, she helped at-risk women receive job training and employment.

The lives of hidden heroes often evolve very differently from anything they ever expected. Think of Mary’s case. She was trained to be a teacher and followed that career path for 15 years. Would anyone have thought that she would have played a pioneering role in the assimilation of women into the military or leading a program to provide job opportunities for women at risk? Probably not, but that’s the magic behind hidden heroes. They often rise to the occasion and demonstrate talents that may never have been realized.

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“Human potential is the same for all. If you have the will power, then you can change anything.” – Dali Lama

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