Joanne Pierce Misko, in red and lower right, and Susan Roley Malone, seen at the FBI Training Academy in 1972, and today, were the first women of the modern era to become special agents.
Women were not allowed to become FBI agents until weeks after longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover died, the FBI reports in a series about female special agents.
The bureau changed its policy, in part because of new equal-rights laws.
The first women of the modern era to become special agents were former Marine Susan Roley Malone and nun Joanne Pierce Misko, who were not always embraced by colleagues.
After clearing every hurdle, the doubters subsided, the FBI reported.
The pair completed training in October 1972.
Here’s the FBI’s story as it appears on the agency’s website:
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.
The new agent training was tough enough on its own—firearms, strength, endurance, self-defense, academics. But for Misko and Malone, who were expected to meet the requirements long in place for males, there was the added dimension of their novelty, which was not universally embraced at first.
“I’m sure when they first saw that there were two women in their class it was like, ‘Oh, we got them,’” Misko recalled in a recent interview. Malone, who had already broken some stereotypes as a Marine, remembers a fellow classmate confronting her during a break, brusquely asking why she thought she could be an FBI agent. “And I sat down and I talked to him,” Malone stated. “I said, ‘I love my country just like you do. I want to be here for the same reasons that you want to be here.’” He heard her out. And in the weeks that followed, the two women set out to demonstrate that they belonged in their coveted slots in New Agent Class 73-1. They won over some of the most ardent doubters by rising to every challenge and helping their classmates over some hurdles along the way. In the crucible of training, the group bonded quickly.
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