Read the original 1972 press release here.

On July 17, 1972, Joanne Pierce (Misko) and Susan Roley (Malone) were sworn in as FBI special agents and began that arduous training outlined in Gray’s press release, graduating in October. By the end of that year, 11 women would be sworn in.

In 1978, Special Agent Christine Karpoch (Jung) would become the first female firearms instructor—and she would shoot the coveted “possible,” a perfect score on the FBI’s Practical Pistol Range.

In 1985, Robin Ahrens became, tragically, the first female agent killed in the line of duty.

In 1990, Special Agents Susan Sprengel and Helen Bachor were sent to London and Montevideo, Uruguay to serve as the FBI’s first female assistant legal attachés.

In 1992, Special Agent Julianne Slifco became our first woman legal attaché, heading our overseas office in Vienna. And Birdie Pasenelli became our first female special agent in charge, overseeing the Anchorage Field Office. She later became the first woman assistant director at Headquarters, in charge of the Finance Division.

They were known as the nun and the Marine. The respective backgrounds of Joanne Pierce Misko and Susan Roley Malone could not have been more dissimilar. But 40 years ago, on July 17, 1972, the two women were drawn together by a shared goal—to become FBI special agents.

Up until then, under the leadership of longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, only men could be agents. But just weeks after Hoover died in May 1972, the Bureau’s acting director—motivated in part by new equal rights laws—changed the men-only policy that had been in place since the Prohibition Era. So on a balmy Monday exactly four decades ago, the two women assembled with 43 similarly pressed and starched men at FBI Headquarters to take their oath before heading down to the FBI Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia for 14 weeks (now 20) of physical and mental conditioning.


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