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J. Edgar Hoover, who served as FBI director for nearly half a century, said women could not be agents. Within weeks of his death, that changed, and the first female special agents of the modern era started their training.
The first two female special agents were nicknamed "the Marine" and "the nun." CBS News went to the FBI Academy – also known as Quantico – in Stafford County, Virginia, to meet "the Marine."
Susan Roley Malone is a legend at the FBI Academy. Fifty years ago, she made history as one of the first two women to graduate as a special agent. To celebrate the anniversary, the FBI brought together current and former female agents.
Malone said it was a dream job that she had wanted since eighth grade. And as one of the first female special agents, she felt like she was under a microscope.
"I think in some quarters it was an experiment and, you know, would it fail? I certainly wasn't going to fail. If they had to kill me, I wouldn't quit," she said.
Malone felt like she had to be "five times as good" as the men. And she was. But it came with challenges.
"I think some of the challenges, even from some of my colleagues in our class, a couple of them had a difficult time being in a class with two women agents that carried the same badge and did the same job they were going to do," she said.
Today, women make up just 22% of special agents, and of the 56 FBI field offices, only seven are run by women.
"I think there's few women in law enforcement in general," said Jacqueline Maguire, who runs the Philadelphia Field Office. "It's a tough job."
Maguire has a message for girls who may be thinking about a career in the FBI.
"I say go for it," Maguire said. "It's really cool to be able to go home at the end of the day and say, 'I tried to make an impact. I tried to make the world better.'"