This week’s America250 salute is Marine Corps Veteran Margaret A. Brewer.
Margaret A. Brewer was born in Durand, Michigan, in 1930. When she was young, Brewer said she wanted to be a Marine. According to her mother, as a child, Brewer liked singing the Marines’ Hymn. When she was in high school, her mother took her to listen to a speech by the Marines who fought on Iwo Jima and raised the flag.
In 1952, Brewer graduated from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor with a bachelor’s degree in geography. As soon as she graduated, Brewer completed two six-week training sessions, after which she commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps.
Her first duty station was the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro California, where she worked as a communication watch officer. In 1953, Brewer transferred to Brooklyn, New York, where she served as inspector-instructor of a women Marine Reserve unit. She also established the first women’s communication platoon. Between 1955 and 1958, she served as a platoon commander of Women Officers Command at Quantico, Virginia.
Her next assignment moved her to Lexington, Kentucky, where she worked as a woman officer selection officer. In 1961, Brewer promoted to the rank of major, and a couple years later, she became a commanding officer of the Women Officer School. Her role included overseeing the training of female officer candidates and enlisted women. Brewer moved up in rank fast, and by 1966, she promoted to lieutenant colonel, which at that time, was the highest rank a woman could hold. She transferred to the 6th Marine Corps District in Atlanta and worked there as the public affairs officer.
A year later, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a law that allowed women to be promoted to colonel. Soon after, Brewer received her promotion to the rank of colonel. She served as the deputy director of Women Marines from 1968 to 1971. In her new role, Brewer oversaw women Marines’ clothing, training, health, morale and welfare. She also helped develop new regulations regarding pregnancy and parenthood for women in the Marine Corps.
One of Brewer’s career goals was to establish a strong presence of women in the Marine Corps and help the women better integrate with the men. During her service, Brewer revised and eliminated several policies that transformed the role of women in the Marine Corps. Thanks to her recommendation, women took on more career challenges as well as join a pilot program that allowed women to serve in the 1st Marine Division and 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.
On Feb. 1, 1973, Brewer became the seventh and last director of Women Marines. The organization was soon disbanded, and women were fully integrated into the Marine Corps.
Gen. James F. Amos said that “throughout her three decades of service to our Corps and country, [Brewer] truly led from the front and helped the Marine Corps integrate women more fully into the force.” Amos also said despite the many people did not think that women should be part of the Marine Corps, Brewer proved them wrong over and over again.
In 1978, President Jimmy Carter nominated her for the rank of brigadier general–a rank that no woman had ever held before. Since it was unheard of for women to become generals, Brewer’s nomination had to be approved by both houses of Congress. Brewer became the first woman general officer in the Marine Corps. After serving a couple of years as a director of Public Affairs, Brewer retired from the military. During her service, Brewer received two Legion of Merit awards.
“It’s never easy being the first, but she was both the first female general officer and the first director of Public Affairs and met the challenges and responsibilities of each with professionalism and grace,” Amos said.
Brewer spent the rest of her life serving on a board of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation and the Catholic Charities of Arlington County, Virginia. She also helped create the National Museum of the Marine Corps and worked with the Women in Military Service for America Memorial.
Brewer passed away on Jan. 2, 2013, at the age of 82.
We honor her service.
VA is highlighting 250 Veterans leading up to July 4, 2026, which marks 250 years of independence. Learn more about the count down to 250 years of the American spirit at https://america250.org/.
Writer: Paulina Riffey
Editors: Annabelle Colton, Merrit Pope
Fact Checker: Carl Wesseln
Graphic Designer: Brittany Gorski