Norma Schrader was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1920 and raised in North Bergen, New Jersey. She graduated from Union Hill High School in 1937 and began work at the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in New York City.
Schrader joined the U.S. Navy WAVES and attended boot camp at Hunter College in New York City in January 1945. She was then stationed in Charleston, South Carolina, where she served as master-at-arms and supervised the mess hall and WAVES barracks until Augist 1946.
After World War II, Schrader enrolled in the V6 reserve program, returned to her job at Metropolitan Insurance, and attended Packard School of Business. In May 1951 she was recalled to active duty and stationed at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where she served as master-at-arms and later as the women’s athletic director. In 1953 she returned to inactive reserve status, and worked for the Department of the Navy in Charleston. Schrader retired from the navy as a captain after twenty years.