When the ship store on this 1,092-foot vessel gets a rare box of small Hanes T-shirts, women snap them up. "You should get them in boys' sizes," a petite enlisted woman pleaded with a clerk this week. And women's restrooms on the ship are hard to find.

Years after the first woman joined the crew of one of the Navy's largest aircraft carriers, women are gaining in numbers but remain very much a minority in a male-dominated environment -- about 10 percent of a crew of 5,655.

They are the first generation of women to serve in a U.S. military where formal restrictions against women have been erased or significantly eased. They work alongside male counterparts in what is often a noisy, industrial atmosphere, but they find creative ways to maintain their links to femininity.

For Petty Officer Barbara Silkwood, it's a sliver of banana-scented soap, carefully protected in a plastic box tucked in a black toiletries kit. "If I can't look good, at least I can smell good," said Silkwood, 22. She showers twice a day because the warm water and sweet-smelling soap distract her from the realities of her work environment aboard the nuclear-powered carrier.

Like many women in the crew, Petty Officer Theresa Pickard enlisted as a way to pay for education. The need arose after she graduated from high school in Columbus, Ohio, seven years ago.

"I wanted money for college, a reliable job and a way to travel and experience new places," she said as she sat in camouflage pants and a grease-covered white jersey. Pickard was studying for an advancement exam in the ship's library, surrounded by seamen playing loud video games on three television sets.

"Maybe there is discrimination, but I've never felt it," said Pickard, 26, an aviation electrician's mate. "People pretty much care about whether you can do the job, not what your gender is."

It's not quite so smooth for every woman.

"Some males don't think females should be here," said Seaman Cynthia Mendez, 20, a Los Angeles native and the first woman in a family of Marines to enlist in the military. "They'll say things like 'She's a girl, she can't carry this.' I just show them that I can."

As the ship's executive officer, Cmdr. Ronald Horton is among the first to learn about complaints of sexual harassment. He calls them a rarity but won't discuss the topic, saying it's a legal matter.

Fraternization is prohibited aboard the ship. Nonetheless, since the carrier left its home port of Everett, Wash., in July, as many as 20 female sailors have been taken off the ship because of pregnancy, said Cmdr. Gerry Goyins, the ship's senior medical officer. Goyins said there was a cluster of pregnancies early in the deployment but the pace slowed after senior female enlisted crew members warned young female sailors that getting pregnant is "not what sailors do."

He said that the Lincoln's pregnancy rate was considered low for an aircraft carrier and that some ships report a dozen each month. The Navy requires pregnant sailors and aviators to be removed from any ship that is more than three hours from obstetrical care, Goyins said. The women are not discharged but are assigned shore duty.

Among the elite of the women on board are the three who fly combat missions as electronic countermeasures officers, or ECMOs. They operate the weapons, communications and navigation systems in EA-6B Prowlers, all-weather jets that jam enemy radar and communications signals. They say they get along fine with their male colleagues.

"A lot of these guys are like my brothers," said Lt. Heather O'Donnell, 27. " . . . I'm friends with some of their wives, which is nice."

Lt. Jenn Stillings doesn't want attention drawn to women in the Navy. "Every time we're treated as a special or unusual, we lose ground," said Stillings, 28, an ECMO whose husband performs the same job with a Prowler squadron now in Turkey.

All three women studied at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and exude its trademark quiet confidence. Their officer status accords them automatic respect among the enlisted men they outrank, who call them "Ma'am" and stand aside to let them walk by in the ship's narrow passageways. The women say the Navy has been good to them, integrating them into combat divisions.

They say they are less concerned about discrimination and harassment than about whether they can balance military careers with domestic life.

Generally, the Navy requires seamen and aviators to alternate shore duty with sea duty. A woman who wants to have a baby must schedule it during shore leave but knows that after as little as three years, she will have to leave her child to go to sea.

Motherhood would force her to walk away from the military, Stilling said. In her three years of marriage, she and her husband have lived apart for 23 months.

"I can't imagine subjecting a child to that kind of separation," she said. "This is a great experience, at least until you're 30."

From left, Lt. Heather O'Donnell, Lt. Jenn Stillings and Lt. Shannon Callahan operate the weapons, communications and navigation instruments on the Lincoln's EA-6B Prowlers, the jets that jam enemy radio transmissions and radar.