Alma Grocki, a graduate of the second class to include women, said she was lucky to avoid the prejudice experienced by female peers. Some of them were routinely forced to stand and sing embarrassing songs or to read aloud sexist passages of writing.
Grocki grew up around the Navy shipyard in Pearl Harbor and was only moderately aware of the resistance to women at the academy. "I'm kind of stubborn," she said. "I was not going to let someone tell me what not to do because I was a girl. I did not realize it was a big, big thing."
There were amusing aspects; early female midshipmen had to wear ill-fitting clothes originally tailored for men. And it was hard to feel normal when reporters from Newsweek and Time were around, asking for interviews.
Grocki met her husband, Russ, at the academy. He remembered his surprise at hearing catcalls directed toward a female midshipmen who had risen to brigade commander. "I just remember thinking, 'This is so stupid,'" he said. "Everyone in that room had served with women. But it took probably 10 years to work that out of the system."
"No, I think it's still there," said his wife, who recruits for the academy.
Her father-in-law, Chet Grocki, graduated from the academy in 1958. Admitting women, he said, "was resisted by my generation. The mentality was that they had to be teachers or secretaries. But it was a good idea. The time had come."
Alma Grocki became an engineer charged with fixing submarines. A few years back, she was stationed with a male officer who told her he did not like female officers from the academy. After a time, however, he asked if Grocki would speak with his daughter about possible admission.
"I don't have the heart," she recalled him saying, "to tell her she can't do something because she's a girl."