First WahZhaZhe (Osage) Woman to serve in U.S. Marine Corps

First Female Osage Marine

Born July 11, 1923 in Wynona, Oklahoma, Died June 13, 2001

First lady Eleanor Roosevelt helped change the law so all women, including Native Americans, could serve in the World War II war effort. In a time of America when women were expected to be in the kitchen with their aprons on taking care of their families, Esther Quinton, daughter of Franklin and Agnes, was patriotic and ambitious. Trading lipstick for a United States Marine Corps uniform was a life-changing decision. She determinedly became the first Osage woman to join the U.S. Marines and wear the stripes of a pilot.

Breaking boundaries, Esther was one of the women who played a major role in changing American expectations of women in the armed forces of the United States of America. For a woman to fly a plane in World War II they had to be at the top of their league. Women served under the highest expectations of the USMC uniform. The training was tough and the female Pilots must be able to know the intricate details of flying, get it in the air safely, work on their own planes’ engines, and service them as needed. Esther logged over 500 hours of flying time during World War II.

After her service as a soldier, she returned home and brought her high standards of bravery. Soon after marrying Jack Russell Cheshewalla in Pawhuska on August 25, 1941, they began their family, resulting in eight children. During WWII in June of 1942, the Osages own Major General Clarence Tinker went down with his plane and crew members in the Pacific. Esther was greatly touched by such a loss and joined the American Legion Post 198. For a time she was the Post Commander.

On many Memorial Day’s at the Pawhuska Cemetery in front of the beautiful white granite mausoleum with American flags flying, Esther wore her dress blues USMC uniform, her cap and her low heels to lay the wreath on the grave of the Unkown Soldier to the sound of the bugler playing “Taps”. Bystanders could hardly hold back the tears. She represented all that was good about America and the sacrifices made for our freedoms, remaining a role model for young Native Americans her entire life. Esther Quinton Cheshewalla passed June 13, 2001 and was buried as a US Marine with a military service in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. “Semper Fi”.

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