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The Oral Histories of Lts. Sandy Daniels, Tina-Marie D’Ercole, Maureen P. Foley, Chrystal A. Lewis, Barbette Henry Lowndes, and Pamela Wacek Svendsen, U.S. Navy, U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1980

These interviews, recorded between 1984 and 1987, document the early Navy career perspectives of then-lieutenants Sandy Daniels, Tina-Marie D’Ercole, Maureen P. Foley, Chrystal A. Lewis, Barbette Henry Lowndes, and Pamela Wacek Svendsen. They were among 55 women who were the first to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy, the Class of 1980. In unsparing detail, the women describe both the extreme prejudices they encountered and the support they received from many, including male faculty members and Navy personnel. Their difficult experience opened doors that today are often taken as a given. The interviews were conducted by U.S. Naval Institute staff member Sue Sweeney, now in the Foundation Department. 

An index to this volume can be viewed here (.pdf).


In this excerpt from Susan B. Sweeney's interview with Lt. Sandy Daniels at her residence in Upper Marlboro, Maryland in December 1987, Lieutenant Daniels speaks of what it was like to be female and perceived as "different" in a male dominated environment.

Lieutenant Daniels: The biggest problem with the approach the Academy took with inducting the women was that they made such a fuss about it, and started from the basis that we were so different from guys—like we were another species or something—rather than start from the approach that we’re all people therefore we have a lot in common. And then perhaps some socialization has caused, maybe, these differences and you might want to work with this, that, and the other. But it always seemed like they were starting from, “There is this other species here that we’re dealing with. They are really weird.”

At one point during the plebe summer, they got all the women together to go march over to look at a couple of films. We thought, “What is this stuff?”We were absolutely rolling. And I kept thinking, “This is what they showed the men? This is how they were telling them that we’re like, you know, worrying about drying in between our toes—and doing our nails every 30 seconds?” I mean, come on. This is a great way to really welcome us in here. But we thought it was a scream. We just couldn’t believe it. And we knew that they’d [the men] had this same indoctrination. We knew they had told the guys, for example, that women cry, we’re allowed to cry in society, so therefore you can keep talking to a woman, she’s still actually functioning.

[. . .] I figured that I had suffered through four years and I was going to do exactly what I wanted to do, which was fly. There wasn’t anything else in the Navy that I could see that I wanted that badly. The ships that we could get on were pretty limited, and I thought, “No this isn’t my thing.” I had always wanted to learn how to fly from day one. I wasn’t going to change my mind now. Not after four years.


Oral History transcripts are available as a print-on-demand program in the following two formats:

Bound volume, hardcover:  $40
DVD (transcript):  $45 

Orders can be made by contacting Janis Jorgensen at the U.S. Naval Institute's Heritage Group:

Email:  [email protected]
Telephone:  410-295-1022



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