Women have served in the U.S. military in some capacity since the Revolutionary War. In honor of Women's History Month, we are looking at the participation of women in the military.
During the War for Independence, women served in Army camps as cooks and laundresses. Some women also served as spies, or even disguised themselves as men in order to take part in the actual fighting.
During the American Civil War, women served as nurses, hospital administrators, and raised money for war efforts on both sides. Some women disguised themselves as men and enlisted, serving alongside their brothers and fathers. Dr. Mary Walker became the only women to receive the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor.
During the Spanish-American War, 1,500 civilian women served as nurses assigned to Army hospitals in the U.S. Hundreds more serve as support staff, spies, and a few disguised themselves as men to serve in the military.
During last two years of World War I, women are allowed to join the military. 33,000 women served as nurses and support staff officially in the military and more than 400 nurses died in the line of duty.
During World War II, more than 400,000 women served at home and abroad as mechanics, ambulance drives, pilots, administrators, nurses, and in other non-combat roles. Eighty-eight women were captured and held as POWs (prisoners of war).
In 1948, Congress passed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act granting women permanent status in the military and entitlement to to veterans benefits.
During the Korean War, over 50,000 women serve at home and abroad. 500 Army nurses serve in combat zones and many Navy nurses serve on hospital ships.
During the Vietnam War, over 7,000 women serve, mostly as nurses in all five divisions of the military, Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. All were volunteers.
In 1976, the first females are admitted to the service academies: U.S. Military Academy at West Point, U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, and the Air Force Academy to be trained in military science.
During the Persian Gulf War, more than 41,000 women are deployed to the combat zone. Two are taken captive.
In 1991, Congress authorizes women to fly in combat missions.
In 1993, Congress authorizes women to serve on combat ships.
In 1998, women fighter pilots fly combat missions off aircraft carriers for the first time in Operation Desert Fox, Iraq.
In 2000, Captain Kathleen McGrath becomes the first woman to command a U.S. Navy warship. The vessel is assigned to the Persian Gulf.
During the “War on Terror,” Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester becomes the first woman awarded the Silver Star for combat action.
Currently, there are over 200,000 women serving in active duty in the U.S. armed forces, with thousands more serving in reserve and support roles.