Women’s History Month
By Theresa Cramer
Special Guest Writer
In celebration of Women’s History month, this blog honors the contributions women have made to Dahlgren. Since the first female mathematician, Eva Jane Hershey, women have held a variety of leadership positions. Their hard work, dedication, and willingness to mentor other women in their respective fields have helped pave the way for more women in the Navy and the science, engineering, technology, and mathematics field. Below we highlight six women who spent their career serving Dahlgren in different capacities.
Eva Jane Hershey
Eva Jane Hershey enlisted in the Woman Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) as LT E.E. Griffith. She was the first WAVE to report aboard the Naval Proving Ground in October 1943. During the war, she was assigned to the exterior ballistics division as Administrative Assistant to CAPT C.C. Bramble. LT Griffith was discharged in September 1946 and immediately became a civilian employee at Dahlgren. Her first civilian job was providing technical assistance to Dr. Bramble and Dr. F.C. Dresch.1 This was a position she held until 1952. During this time, she became Dahlgren’s first female GS-9 mathematician and married Dr. Allen V. Hershey, a mathematician from K Department. Ms. Hershey spent the rest of her career as a mathematician in the Science Research Group of the Computation and Analysis Laboratory. Along with her work on base, Hershey taught algebra, trigonometry, and shorthand at the University of Virginia’s extension school at Dahlgren and was an active member in the local Chapel Guild. Hershey retired after 24 years of combined military and civilian service on 12 January 1968.1
Eva Jane Hershey upon her retirement
Doreen Daniels grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, and was a college freshman at the start of World War II. At the end of the school year, she made the decision to leave the University of Rhode Island and join the U.S. Navy WAVES. Daniels first discovered her aptitude for math when the Navy sent her to Storekeeper School at Indiana University.2 She spent most of the war at Dahlgren where she computed Navy range tables, became the first Female Specialist Chief at the Naval Proving Ground, and met her future husband, Bartow V. Daniels. After being discharged, she returned to the University of Rhode Island and continued to work at Dahlgren during summer vacations. Daniels became a full-time civilian employee at Dahlgren upon receiving her Bachelor’s in Mathematics.
In a 1960s newspaper interview, Daniels stated, “I have always been fortunate to work for men who did not discriminate because of my sex, but promoted men and women alike as they earned the promotion. This seems to be a NSWCS policy.”3 There were, however, moments where her sex obstructed her research—like being denied access to study at-sea missiles launches.4 Yet, these rare moments did not affect Daniels’ work. She was the first woman at Dahlgren to reach grade positions GS-12 and G-13, and the first female GS-14 branch head in 1969. As Branch Head, she was responsible for preparing presetting guidance data on all Polaris and Poseidon test flights, and was also earning her Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma. In 1971, she received her diploma and became the first female Detail to Staff of NSWC Technical Director.5
Daniels retired as Head of the Quality Assurance Branch, Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile Software Development Division in the Strategic Systems Department on 2 September 1983. Throughout her 36-year career, she received multiple performance and achievement awards, as well as recognition from the Society of Women Engineers and “Who’s Who of American Women.”6 Daniels passed away on 14 June 2009 at the age of 85.
Patricia “Patt” Pulliam
Patt Pulliam started working at Dahlgren a week after graduating James Monroe High School in June 1967. Her first job was as clerk-typist in the Printing Division of the Administrative Services Department. Six months later, she reassigned to the Technical Library where she remained for the next 51 years. Pulliam held many positions in the library, including Lead Library Technician, Head of Reference and Circulation Group, Supervisor Librarian, and Head of The Librarian Management Section. In January 1999, became Division Head of the Technical Information Services Office.7 There she managed the library, graphics, and technical publications. Pulliam’s career highlight was participating in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during a military library conference. She also loved working with staff, helping patrons, and most of all, watching the library’s evolution over time.8 Pulliam retired on 30 September 2012. Two months later, she returned to the Technical Library to work as a part-time contractor where she still continues, assisting with records management.
Patt Pulliam showcasing a Technical Library display in 1993
Sheila Young was a student at Mary Washington College (now the University of Mary Washington) when she applied to be a summer mathematics intern with the Federal Government. In June 1963, she accepted a Student Trainee position with the Computation and Analysis Lab at Dahlgren’s Naval Weapons Laboratory. Her first summer was spent copying numbers, a task she did not enjoy. However, her second summer was spent doing projects that she found more intellectually stimulating. After graduating college in 1966, Young started working with the Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile Program. She started as Mathematician, but slowly moved up the ranks to become Division Head for the SLBM Research and Analysis Division in 1982 where, she managed all the work conducted on the Fire Control Software for Trident II.9 Along with managing projects, it was her responsibility to, “nurture individuals as they start their career and going up.”10 Young later left Dahlgren in 1990 to work in Washington DC, but returned nine years later to become the Head of the Strategic and Strike Systems Department. As Department Head, Young was responsible for managing the mission planning and weapons control software for the Tomahawk and Trident missile systems. Along with countless performance and achievement awards, Young was awarded the Superior Civil Service Medal for of her role in developing Trident II’s Fire Control Software and the Dahlgren Award for her leadership and technical contributions. Young retired on May 3, 2004.9 She currently resides in Fredericksburg and is an active member of the University of Mary Washington alumni network.
Mary E. Lacey
Mary E. Lacey began her Navy career in 1973 as Federal Junior Fellow at the White Oak Naval Surface Weapons Center. At that time, she was one of the only female mechanical engineering students at the University of Maryland. Lacey worked at a variety of naval offices throughout her 32-year career. At Dahlgren, she was a Senior Executive in the Research Department.11 Some of her other positions included NSWCDD Technical Director, Program Executive Officer for the Department of Defense’s National Security Personnel System, and senior civilian advisor to the Missile Defense Agency Director. She ultimately ended her career in 2015 as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation).12 Lacey made an effort throughout her career to mentor future female executives. At a Dahlgren Heritage Museum event, she advised women to “Sit at the table… You need to be present and you need to be part and a recognized part of the conversation and decision-making process.”13 Lacey passed away on 20 February 2017.
Mary E. Lacey
CAPT Sheila Patterson
CAPT Patterson became NSWCDD’s first woman commander on 25 May 2007. As Commander, she was responsible for the NWCDD’s daily operations, which included the financials, the contracts, legal work, and each department’s technical efforts. Along with her military background, CAPT Patterson has a Bachelor’s in Chemistry from the Naval Academy and a Master’s in Astronautical Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. Her scientific background helped her represent the work being done by the Warfare Center.14 During her command, Dahlgren’s projects included work on littoral combat ship, the electronic railgun, radars, and electronic warfare. Celebrating a project’s success with staff members was the biggest highlight of her command.14 CAPT Michael Smith relieved CAPT Patterson in July 2011. At the change of command ceremony, Naval Surface Warfare Center Commander, RADM James Shannon likened CAPT Patterson to John Dahlgren. “Just like Dahlgren conducted cannon firings across the Anacostia River, Sheila led the team in conducting record-setting firings of the electromagnetic railgun—next-generation weaponry for our 21st century Sailors and Marines."15 The end of her command marked her retirement from the Navy after 28 years of service.
1. “First Wave Retires.” January 19, 1968.
2. “Doreen Daniels Becomes Head of KGO Branch.” Newspaper unknown.
3. “Daniels Tells How She Got Ahead.” Newspaper unknown.
4. Marilyn Muse. “Lady Rocketeer Mrs. Daniels: Problems Few In Field Dominated By Men.” The Free Lance Star. June 17, 1960.
5. Capt. James R. Williams to Doreen Daniels. September 2, 1983.
6. “Awards and Honors.” Publication unknown.
7. Capt. M.E. Smith to Patricia Pulliam. September 30, 2012.
8. Patricia Pulliam Interview with Theresa Cramer. March 8, 2018.
9. Capt. Lyal B. Davidson to Sheila D. Young. May 3, 2014.
10. Sheila Young Interview with Jamie Rife. June 3, 2003.
11. Mary E. Lacey Interview with Diane Putney. January 16, 2009. http://history.defense.gov/Portals/70/Documents/oral_history/OH_Trans_LACEY%20Mary1-16-09.pdf?ver=2017-12-07-093146-747.
12. Donald McCormack. “Tribute to Mary E. Lacey.” White Oak Alumni Association, Inc., The Leaf. Spring 2017.
13. Conversation with Mary E. Lacey and Michael Smith. Unknown date.
14. Capt. Sheila Patterson Interview with Amelia Toms. June 23, 2011.
15. John J. Joyce. “NSWC Dahlgren Holds Change of Command Ceremony.” July 11, 2010. http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=54584.