Lynda Wheeler becomes Washington State Ferries' first female deck officer on July 3, 1977.

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 2/26/2003
  • Essay 5309

On July 3, 1977, Lynda Wheeler becomes the first woman to serve as a deck officer for Washington State Ferries. Her first assignment is as Second Mate on the ferry Walla Walla.

Wheeler joined Washington State Ferries in 1973 as an entry-level Porter. She was later promoted to Watchman and then Ordinary Seaman. After 18 months, the minimum amount of time to fulfill Coast Guard requirements, she was advanced to Able-Bodied Seaman. She was the first woman in the state ferry system to achieve this rank.

Along with meeting time and training requirements, Wheeler passed strict Coast Guard tests for her Inland Mate’s License, which allowed her to serve as a deck officer. Soon afterward, she joined the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots, Inland Division, becoming the first female member of that labor union.

Wheeler was born in Seattle to a maritime family that owned the Washington Tug and Barge Company. She graduated from Olympic College in Bremerton.


“Lynda Wheeler Becomes First, First Mate for WSF,” Enetai July 11, 1977, p. 4.

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