1972: Joanne Pierce Misko and Susan Roley Malone

First Female Special Agents in the Modern FBI

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had a firm rule: only men could be special agents in the FBI. But that rule changed shortly after his death in May 1972, paving the way for the first female modern Special Agents. The two women, Joanne Pierce Misko and Susan Roley Malone, joined their 43 male counterparts at the FBI's Special Agent training course in Quantico, VA, in July 1972. Joanne Pierce Misko had been a nun in New York for 10 years before getting her start as a researcher with the FBI in 1970. Her manager at the time explained all the pros and cons of the job and supported her application. Susan Roley Malone had already broken stereotypes as a U.S. Marine when the FBI began accepting special agent applications from women. She had long admired the Bureau and, encouraged by her friends, she applied.

Misko was 31 when training started; Malone was 25. They were expected to meet the same physical and other training requirements as their male counterparts. They won over some of the most ardent doubters by rising to every challenge and helping their classmates over some hurdles along the way. The two women lived together, worked out together, and supported each other during training, creating a lifelong bond. Following training, Malone was sent to Omaha and Misko to St. Louis. Both women recall being met with some initial resistance in the ranks, but quickly showed they could pull their weight.

Malone later said that they didn't want publicity or special treatment for being the first female special agents. They worked hard and wanted to be just like any other agent. "We wanted to be agents first. We just happened to be women."

Read more about the nun and the Marine on the FBI website.