Outstanding Native Women
Cpl. Ernestine ("Ernie") Murphy (1921-2019)
Last updated 8/20/2019 at 4:06pm
WWII U.S. Marine Corp veteran who worked in secret and confidential files, Washington DC
Nearly 800 Native American women served in the U.S. military during WWII. For several reasons their contributions-as were those of all women who served in the armed forces during that era-were largely unrecognized.
Perhaps the chief reason for such oversight in the WWII era is that, regardless of race or ethnicity, women as a gender were largely restricted regarding the capacities in which they were allowed to serve.
Among these unsung WWII heroines is Ernestine ("Ernie") Murphy. A full blood Stockbridge Mohican, she was born in Morgan Siding, Shawano County on November 5, 1921 to Glen and Melissa (Fowler) Quinney.
She attended school in Flandreau, South Dakota and during the summers, worked in the Black Hills located in western South Dakota and extending in eastern Wyoming.
Ernie has explained in her own words that she enlisted in the United States Marine Corp on March 22, 1945 and was honorably discharged January 1946, serving, she stated, "just for the duration of the war." She further said that "the purpose of enlisting women was to free men from the jobs that women could do, mostly office and factory work so they could recruit more men." Murphy noted that she was sometimes the only Indian in her squadron.
The toughest part of her military experience, she admitted, were the six weeks of boot camp training in Camp Lejeune, South Carolina. Her least preferred assignment was "early morning guard duty".
Ernie was also stationed in Norman, Oklahoma for largely office work, then transferred to the Washington, D.C. office of secret and confidential files. Because the war was nearly over by then, Murphy received an honorable discharge (1946) and married Virgil J. Murphy .
Also a member of the Old Stockbridge Presbyterian Church's Mary and Martha circle, Ernie was part of the group of women who loved Bible study and being involved in church and fellowship activities. Ernie was a member of the Stockbridge Veterans and was a also a community representative.
A tireless contributor, she worked for the Stockbridge-Munsee Health Center, was an emergency medical technician (EMT) and later earned a degree in American Indian Studies from Mount Senario College at Ladysmith, Wisconsin. She also taught history, crafts and language.
At a State-of-Tribes Address (April 4, 2017) Murphy and other women veterans were extolled for "shattering glass ceilings and modeling for future generations that the stereotyped roles society assigned them did not have to remain the norm." Further emphasized was the rendering of service to others.
As she was the oldest living Stockbridge-Munsee at the time, on November 7, 2018 the Mohican Veterans dedicated their lodge's new pavilion in her honor. Still active in her later years, Ernie took pleasure in spending time with her grandchildren, trout fishing, picking berries and gardening.
A lively part of Ernestine "Ernie" Murphy's legend is that she was a combat veteran along with male counterparts and fought side-by-side with male marines against the Nazis and Japanese in WWII.
Honor Dinner for Native American World War II Veterans, August 11, 2005
Schedler, Jo Ann, Legiontown Webpage, Mohican Veterans dedicate pavilion to Cpl. Ernestine E. Murphy
Shawano Leader Obituary, February 13, 2019
State of Tribes Address, April 4, 2017
The Women's Memorial-Native American Women veterans website
KB Schaller(Cherokee/Seminole heritage)is a journalist, researcher, novelist and illustrator. Her focus is on the achievements of minority women. Schaller is author of 100+ Native American Women Who Changed the World, winner of an International Book Award, Women's Issues Category. Other KB Schaller books are available through Amazon.com and other booksellers.