Skip to main content

Oleta L. Crain Papers

Identifier: ARL48

Scope and Contents

Includes photographs, correspondence, and newspaper clippings that document her military endeavors with the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) and the United States Air Force during the 1940s.


  • 1942-1998

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.


All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from material in the collection should be discussed with the appropriate librarian or archivist. Permission for publication may be given on behalf of the Denver Public Library as the owner of the physical item. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained by the customer. The Library does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or publication rights of the manuscript held by the writer, heirs, donors, or executors. Reproduction restrictions are decided on a case-by-case basis.

Biographical / Historical

Around 1920, Oleta Lawanda Crain was born in Earlsboro, Oklahoma, to Mrs. V. Paula Crain. She grew up in nearby Wewoka, Oklahoma, and graduated from Douglass High School. Although Crain studied for three years at Langston University, she received her B.A. in Social Science from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri. She belonged to Delta Sigma Theta, a national honor society for black women.

After college, Crain taught history and coached basketball teams in Hugo, Oklahoma. Later, she relocated to Denver, where she pursued a Master’s degree in religious education from the Iliff School of Theology. Due to the Second World War, Crain left her studies to enlist in the military. She was, in fact, the first black woman in Denver to join the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC).

As a victim of segregation, Crain had to wake earlier than her white counterparts to shower, but she “was so happy to be black, and not have to put up with barracks life” [since she slept in her own private room]. Still, though, Crain made the best of it and retired from the Air Force in 1963 with the rank of Major.

After her military career, Crain joined the Labor Department in Washington as a contract expert. In 1968, she transferred to Boston and obtained a Master’s of Public Administration from Northeastern University. Next, she worked for the Women’s Bureau, in Denver, as a regional administrator. There, Crain sought to improve wages, working conditions, and career opportunities for women.

In the mid-1990s, The Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame inducted Crain as a member.


1 box (.5 linear feet)

1 oversize folder

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Oleta Crain, 2003.

Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Denver Public Library, Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library Repository

2401 Welton St.
Denver Colorado 80205