The Navy community is mourning the passing of one of the Royal Australian Navy’s most influential sailors, who died aged 82 in Brisbane. Warrant Officer Agnes ‘Lennie’ Maiden was the first woman to be promoted to the highest rank as a senior sailor.
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Maiden served in the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS) for nearly 29 years, from 1956 until 1984, and continued to support the Navy through the WRANS Association during retirement. Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said Maiden paved the way for women wanting to serve in the Australian Defence Force.
“Lennie was a pioneer for women as she worked her way through the WRANS ranks at a time when the service of women in the ADF was not given the status and credit that it received today,” Minister Chester said.
“Lennie was a mentor and trainer, and she inspired countless young women to continue careers in the WRANS and other services.”
Maiden was promoted to the rank of Warrant Officer in 1972. Forty-seven years later in 2019 the Navy promoted its first female most senior ranking sailor in the Navy, Warrant Officer of the Navy, Deb Butterworth. Warrant Officer Butterworth said Maiden’s legacy will be remembered.
“Lennie demonstrated through her devotion to duty that women were fully entitled to be promoted on merit to high rank,” WO Butterworth said.
“Her rich legacy will be remembered and cherished by those she mentored and served with. The female sailors and officers who work as equals alongside their male shipmates across today’s Navy owe a debt to Lennie and her generation which can never be repaid.”
The Royal Australian Navy has changed considerably since Maiden’s days: women were not permitted to serve aboard ships until 1983, and by 1985 the WRANS were integrated into the RAN.
As of October 2019, women make up 21.7 per cent of the Navy’s workforce and can serve in any role.
Vice-Admiral Michael Noonan, Chief of Navy, wrote to Maiden to thank her for her decades of service and her devotion to duty.
“You and your generation of WRANS showed Navy the way forward towards the modern integrated workforce in which every rank and career path is open to all our members,” VADM Noonan wrote.