Eaton native Lt. Gen. Carol Mutter to be inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame
March 17, 2017
The 2017 National Women’s Hall of Fame inductees
Retired Lt. Gen. Carol Mutter, an Eaton native, will join nine other women as the 2017 class for the National Women’s Hall of Fame inductees. They are:
» The Honorable Matilda Raffa Cuomo, a children’s rights activist.
» Temple Grandin, an animal sciences professor at Colorado State University.
» Lorraine Hansberry, a groundbreaking playwright and essayist.
» Victoria Jackson, cosmetics entrepreneur and medical research philanthropist.
» Sherry Lansing, a trailblazer in the movie industry.
» Clare Booth Luce, former editor of Vanity Fair magazine and war correspondent during World War II.
» Aimée Mullins, world-record setting athlete who conceived of and was the first to run in prosthetic legs modeled on the hind legs of a cheetah. They are now standard amputee runners.
» Dr. Janet D. Rowley, a geneticist, whose research established cancer is a genetic disease.
» Alice Waters, a chef, author and food activist.
It started with a letter.
Retired Lt. Gen. Carol Mutter was a junior at Colorado State College, now the University of Northern Colorado, when she got a recruitment letter about an officer candidate training program for the U.S. Marine Corps.
But she was going to be a teacher. She wanted to teach math, and she had only a year left in school. Her mom, knowing this, threw the letter away.
Eventually, though, the letter Mutter received at her Eaton home launched a career in which she became a trailblazer for women in the military. Among other achievements, Mutter became the first woman nominated for a three-star rank in the military and the first woman to serve as a three-star general. She retired in 1999 after a more than 30-year career.
She'll be honored later this year when she's inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in September at a ceremony in Seneca Falls, N.Y., alongside nine other accomplished women, such as Colorado State University professor Temple Grandin.
In summer 1966, after joining the Marines, Mutter worked and lived only 30 miles south of Washington, D.C.
It was in the middle of the Vietnam War and Mutter's time in training. The structure the training at Quantico, Va., offered was something that made her feel comfortable, she said. She was used to it after her time in 4-H in Eaton, Girl Scouts and Sunday school.
For her military occupational specialty, she decided on computers. During her junior year at Colorado State College, the campus got a computer system. She worked with it some and really enjoyed it.
When Mutter joined the Marines, only about 1 percent of the corps was women. Today about 7 percent of Marines are women.
In the early 1990s, she began hearing rumors she was on the list of nominees for a three-star rank. The lists aren't immediately made public, and Mutter wasn't sure if she wanted the rank.
Her husband, James Mutter, also was a Marine. He reached the rank of colonel, working in aviation command and control.
Mutter talked to him about accepting the impending promotion, saying she'd call and get her name removed from the list if it was going to be tough on them. Even being stationed in the same place was sometimes hard, she said.
But her husband supported her.
"He told me, 'You got to do it for the ladies,' " Mutter said.
With that, Mutter became the first woman nominated for a three-star rank. Still, she had to wait until there was a position available before she was promoted to lieutenant general.
"That was a lot of responsibility. I had to make sure I was heard," Mutter said. "I thought it would take another generation before it would happen."
But she didn't have much pushback from her male colleagues; in fact, many of them were open to the idea of being led by a woman, she said. Many had daughters of their own who were attempting to crack through the glass ceiling in other professions.
Mutter said she's seen the growth and changes in the military for women over the years. She said it's been less like a policy change and more like an evolution.
"If it's evolutionary, it's harder to go back to how it was before," she said.
— Samantha Fox is a reporter for The Fence Post and The Greeley Tribune. She can be reached at (970) 392-4410, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @FoxonaFarm.