Historic Females Col. Barbara Janet Bishop: “Military Pioneer”

By Michael Matarazzo

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is the first in a month-long series about noteworthy women in Everett, taken from vignettes written by former City Clerk Michael Matarazzo in his book ‘They Came from Everett.’ The histories of many female residents of Everett might surprise readers, as many of their stories have never been fully told. Matarazzo’s book is available at bookblues.com.

Colonel Barbara Janet Bishop, who had assumed her assignment as Director of Women Marines on 3 January 1964, retired in August 1969 during ceremonies held in the office of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Leonard F. Chapman, Jr. Prior to this assignment, she completed a tour of duty in Naples, Italy, as Military Secretary to the Commander in Chief, Allied Forces, Southern Europe.

 Colonel Bishop was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on 2 October 1920; the daughter of Sidney and Jessie (Bruce) Bishop. When Mr. & Mrs. Bishop first married they lived with Jesse’s widowed mother in her home on Sherman Street as Sidney’s job as a chauffer for a private family did not provide enough income for the couple to move into a place of their own. Jesse’s sister Margaret and her husband Dr. Lester Chisholm a dentist, who would become Mayor of Everett in 1923, lived downstairs.

By the time of Barbara’s birth, Mr. Bishop’s employment situation had improved significantly with the passage of the 18th Amendment as he was now serving as a Prohibition Enforcement Officer. Soon after, they purchased the house from Mrs. Bruce and eventually sold that house and purchased one on High Street.

Barbara attended the Everett Public Schools and graduated with honors from Everett High School in 1938. Barbara was in love with the arts. She was a member of the Writer’s Club at Everett High and throughout her high school years she attended the Scott Carbee School of Art in the evening, and spent her summer vacations studying landscape painting.

After her high school graduation, she entered Yale University and completed a six-year course in five years earning her a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Art in January 1943.

While Barbara was studying at Yale, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the nation was at war. Barbara felt an obligation to do her part for the war effort and as a result just 19 days after her college graduation she enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Women’s Reserve. With war in full force, things happened quickly for Barbara in 1943. She was assigned to active duty in April, reported as a private to the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve Officer Candidates’ Class at the U.S. Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School, in Northampton, Massachusetts, appointed as a Cadet in the Women’s Reserve in May, and in June of that same year, was commissioned a Marine Reserve second lieutenant.

According to her official Marine Corps biography, her first assignment was as a detachment officer with the Marine Training Detachment at the U.S. Naval Training School, University of Indiana at Bloomington. From there she was attached to the Marine Aviation Detachment at the Naval Air Station, Atlanta, Georgia, as an administrative officer from October 1943 through March 1945. She joined the Aviation Women’s Reserve Squadron 21 at the Marine Corps Air Station, Quantico, Virginia, as a Squadron Executive Officer and then Commanding Officer from In April 1945 until February 1946. She then served with the Division of Aviation at Headquarters Marine Corps as Officer in Charge of Secret and Confidential Files until she was assigned to an inactive duty status, 10 September 1946, with the rank of captain in the Women’s Reserve.

With the end of WWII, it appeared that Barbara’s military career was over; so she returned to her study of the arts. Captain Bishop earned her Master of Arts Degree at the University of Chicago from September in June 1948 doing her thesis on the five Florentine Cassone panels exhibited in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. She was working on her doctorate when the Women’s Armed Forces Integration Act of 1948 was passed. The Act enabled women to serve as permanent, regular members of the armed forces in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and the recently formed Air Force. Prior to this act, women, with the exception of nurses, served in the military only in times of war. As a result, she was recalled to active duty, reported and was commissioned a captain in the Women Marines on December 7, 1948. Captain Barbara Bishop was now to become a career Marine.

She was assigned to Marine Corps Headquarters and duty as Officer in Charge of Secret and Confidential Files, Division of Plans and Policies. While there, she was promoted to major in February 1951.

In February 1952, she was transferred to Hawaii where she served in the same capacity at Fleet Marine Force, Pacific Headquarters until September 1953. Now back on the mainland, she served as the Commanding Officer of the Women Marine Company, Marine Corps Base at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. She was promoted to her permanent rank of lieutenant colonel in February 1955 with rank from January 1954.

Colonel Bishop returned to Headquarters Marine Corps in May 1955 to serve as Head of the Women’s Branch, Division of Reserve, with additional duty as Deputy Director of Women Marines. From October 1956 through July 1959, she was assigned as Commanding Officer, Women’s Recruit Training Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina. During this assignment, she was cited for exemplary performance of duty in a letter of appreciation by the Commanding General of the Recruit Training Command.

In August 1959, she was named Assistant G-1, Marine Corps Schools, Quantico. She served in this capacity through February 1962, and the following month reported for duty in Europe as Military Secretary to the Commander in Chief, Allied Forces, Southern Europe, Naples, Italy. On 3 January 1964, on assuming her new duties as Director of Women Marines, she was promoted to the temporary rank of colonel. Upon assuming her new post, Colonel Bishop became the fourth Director of Women Marines.

As Director, Colonel Bishop worked to reduce the attrition rate of Women Marines, urged the Pentagon to have Women Marines assigned to Vietnam, improved housing, and served on the Pepper Board a study group to “propose a program to render the peacetime service of women Marines of optimum benefit to the Marine Corps.”  Among its recommendations that were approved were women’s assignment to new duty stations and a broader range of occupational fields to include drafting, lithography, operational communications, communications maintenance, auditing, finance, accounting, informational services, air control, and flight equipment. Women began receiving orders to service schools immediately after recruit training instead of proceeding to their permanent duty station.

Colonel Bishop retired in 1969 and returned to Massachusetts to pursue her interest in early glass-making in America. She became Director of the Sandwich Glass Museum and co-edited a book and several articles on glass. Her interest in the arts of Russia led her to make many visits there to attend Faberge exhibits and the Bolshoi ballet. On 28 January 2005 Col Barbara J. Bishop (Ret), fourth Director of Women Marines, died in her sleep in her home in Sandwich, MA. She only had two final requests – that no fuss be made over her and that she be buried in the family plot in Peabody, MA.

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