Born July 25, 1927, Irene Marion Conole (1927-1954) grew up on Glenwood Avenue, on the northwest side of Rochester. She attended elementary school at Holy Rosary, and graduated from Nazareth Academy in 1945. She worked as a solderer at Bausch & Lomb Optical Company, then as a long-distance operator for the New York Telephone Company, before enlisting in the United States Navy in 1952.
Conole left home to join the military at a time when many of her female friends were settling into more traditional roles as wives and mothers. Her story offers a compelling contrast to the prevailing image of the 1950s housewife, shedding light on the opportunities—and limitations—women faced in the postwar era. Tragically, Conole drowned on May 29, 1954, near Maryland’s Patuxent naval base, where she was stationed. Carl Willis Strickland, a fellow seaman, was charged with her death.
The Irene M. Conole Collection contains letters that Conole wrote to her parents chronicling her life in the military. The collection also includes family photos, newspaper clippings, and items from her childhood. Most of the articles, some of which are highly sensationalized, detail Conole’s death and Strickland’s trial for her murder.
Note: some of the items in this collection may not be appropriate for younger audiences.