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The Women of DHS: Then and Now

This March, the Department of Homeland Security celebrated its fourteenth anniversary, as well as Women’s History Month.

Long before the Department opened its doors in 2003, women were carrying out the mission to ensure a safe and secure America. In World War Two, Navy WAVES, Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service, operated banks of cryptanalysis machines, also known as bombes, to decipher German code in what are now the halls of DHS headquarters.  

Women of DHS - Bombe Machine

Ida Lewis served in the U.S. Lighthouse Service, one of the Coast Guard's predecessors. In 1881, she was officially credited with saving 18 lives during her 39 years at Lime Rock Light Station in Newport, Rhode Island and was awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal.

Operational Watch Office, Second Deck Building

Women have played integral roles in countless missions as part of the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve or SPARs program, Semper Paratus – Always Ready, created in 1942. More than 10,000 women volunteered between 1942 and 1946.  

Today, women from all walks of life serve in the department’s component agencies. Serving as Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Secret Service agents, Federal Emergency Management Agency coordinators, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center officers, and so much more.

USCG Female Employee on Boat

In 2009, Janet Napolitano became the first woman to lead the Department of Homeland Security as Secretary. Today, Kirstjen Nielsen serves as the Department’s Chief of Staff, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Joanna Nunan as the Department’s Military Advisor, and Connie Patrick as Director of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers.

Earlier this month, Presidential nominee Elaine Duke testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on her experience and capability to serve the Department as Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security.

FEMA employee and FEMA dog on disaster site.

As Secretary Kelly pointed out at the start of Women’s History Month, the department continues to honor the men and women of DHS who work tirelessly to uphold the rights of women who are victims of human trafficking, domestic violence, and other crimes.

This month and every month, DHS honors the women who safeguard the American people, protect our homeland, and embody our values.

With honor and integrity, we will safeguard the American people, our homeland, and our values.

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