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In New Interviews, Women Agents Reflect on 40 Years

In our continuing series marking 40 years of women special agents, we feature five new video interviews with agents past and present.


Rising to the Occasion
In New Interviews, Women Agents Reflect on 40 Years

Forty years ago today, the first two women agents in modern history were on the verge of finishing 14 weeks of new agent training to become FBI special agents. On October, 25, 1972, Susan Roley and Joanne Pierce received their badges and special agent credentials and set off for their first field assignments, to San Francisco and Pittsburgh, respectively.

By the end of 1972, 11 women agents had been sworn in. Another 28 women joined the ranks in 1973, including Sheila Horan, who achieved many management firsts for women in the FBI during a career spanning almost three decades. Noteworthy among them: she was on-scene commander during the FBI’s response to the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

In an interview with FBI.gov—one of 20 we’ve published to illustrate the diverse backgrounds and accomplishments of women representing four decades of experiences as special agents—Horan recalled rising to the occasion.

“I had always heard and read about a long-retired agent by the name of Roy Moore who was sent in the ‘60s to Mississippi to work on the cases of the Freedom Riders that were killed,” Horan said. “And I always marveled that someone could go down to a field office, a new field office, set up a command post, have dozens of agents come in, and incredibly run an investigation. Then I was sent to Kenya to do the very same thing as the on-scene commander for these bombings and I had Roy Moore in my sights and I said, ‘Oh man this is the case of a lifetime for me. Can I do it? Am I going to be able to do this?’ And of course you don’t do it yourself; you have dozens of people around you and in my case hundreds of people that came over. But yes, I stayed for five weeks and we were quite successful.”

Horan’s interview is one of five released this week. Others include the special agents in charge in San Diego and Albuquerque; Janice Fedarcyk, who retired in August after leading field offices in Philadelphia and New York; and Cassandra Chandler, who ran the FBI’s Training Division and Office of Public Affairs before serving as special agent in charge of the Norfolk Division.

Today, there are more than 2,600 women agents—nearly 20 percent of all agents. Eleven of the FBI’s 56 field offices have women special agents in charge.

Later this month, in the final installment in our 40th anniversary series, we’ll look at two women agents who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.

Related Story

Oct 22, 2012 10:00 AM


Celebrating Women Special Agents

About This Series

On July 17, 1972, the first two women of the modern era entered the FBI Training Academy at Quantico, Virginia. Fourteen weeks later they emerged as special agents. Over the next 40 years, women agents reshaped the Bureau, achieving leadership posts across the U.S. and around the world. This series looks at their roles, their challenges, and the rewards of a demanding career as a G-woman.

- Part 1: A New Chapter is Opened
- Part 2: Two Women Blaze a Trail
- Part 3: Early Pioneers Tell Their Stories
- Part 4: Pop Culture’s Take on Women Special Agents

- Part 5: A Diversity of Backgrounds and Experiences
- Part 6: Working Undercover

- Part 7: Two Made the Ultimate Sacrifice 

In Their Own Words
 Agents past and present talk about what brought them to the Bureau, their challenges, and their place among four decades of pioneers.
 Collage of Women Agents (Black and White)
“You don’t want people to say she’s a good female agent. You want people to say she’s a good agent.. That’s what you strive for.” 
— Mary Rook, Special Agent in Charge, Anchorage FBI

 As Seen on TV 
Marsha Thomason of “White Collar” and Gillian Anderson of “The X-Files” thank the Bureau’s women agents for their service.
 Marsha Thomason and Gillian Anderson




On July 17, 1972, the first two women of the modern era entered the FBI Training Academy at Quantico, Virginia.
This is the second story in our series marking the 40-year anniversary of women special agents.