Women in the Military & Women
Facts About Women in the Military
Facts about American Women and the Military
- The first woman
awarded a disability pension by Congress for wounds incurred during
military service was Margaret Corbin. She took over her fallen husband's
cannon in the Battle of Fort Washington during the American Revolution
and she herself was wounded.
- During the War
of 1812, two women served as nurses aboard United States, Stephen
Decatur's flag ship.
- During the Civil
War women disguised as men served on both sides. Women also served
as spies, nurses--including aboard at least one hospital ship and
one, Dr. Mary Walker, received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
- Women have served
in the American armed forces for over 100 hundred years--since 1901--when
the Army Nurse Corps was established. The Navy Nurse Corps soon followed
- Women who were
not Nurses were first enlisted in the Navy and Marine Corps during
World War I. Only nurses served in the Army during this war; but the
Army did hire about 200 civilian women who were fluent in both English
and French to serve as telephone operators. These women, often referred
to as the "Hello Girls," were later given veterans' status.
- 432 American
military women were killed during World War II. 88 were prisoners
of war all but one of these in the Pacific Theater.
- 7 women died
in the line of duty while serving in theater during the Vietnam War.
Their names can be found inscribed on the Vietnam Memorial.
- Almost 41,000
women served in theater during Persian Gulf War. 13 women were killed
and two were taken as prisoners of war.
- To date, more
than 20,000 women have served as peacekeepers in Bosnia and Kosovo.
- Two women sailors
were killed and five were wounded in the terrorist attack on USS
- About 10 percent
of the U.S. Forces currently serving in Afghanistan and Iraq are women.
American Women and the Military
- Harriet Tubman
served as a volunteer nurse, spy, and scout for the Union Army during
the Civil War.
- Cathay Williams
is the only known woman to have served as a Buffalo Soldier. A former
slave, she served as Private William Cathay for two years before her
true sex was discovered during an illness. Click here
for more information.
- The first African
American women to serve in the US military were a group recruited
by the Navy as Yeomanettes during the First World War. They served
in various Navy Department offices in the Washington DC area from
1917 until they were mustered out in 1919. For more information on
these pioneering women, see Richard Miller "The Golden Fourteen,
Plus: Black Navy Women in World War One," in Minerva: Quarterly
Report on Women in the Military vol. XIII, no. 3 & 4, Fall/Winter
- During World
War II about 146 African American women served in the WAC as commissioned
officers and about 6500 served as enlisted women. See Martha S. Putney,
When the Nation Was in Need: Blacks in the Women's Army Corps during
World War II, Scarecrow Press, 1992. The first African American
women to serve in the Navy during World War II did not enter service
until 1944. The first two to receive Navy commissions were Harriet
Ida Pickens and Frances Wills, both of New York City. The first African
American women to serve in the Marine Corps entered in 1949.
- Brigadier General
Hazel W. Johnson-Brown, who served as Chief of the Army Nurse Corps
from September 1979 until August 1983, was the first African American
woman to reach general officer rank in American military history.
- Today over 15
percent of active duty women officers and over 33 percent of active
duty enlisted women are African American. They serve in every military
occupation open to women and in every paygrade through Brigadier General/Rear
- According to
Herodotus's The Histories, a woman, Artemisia, served as
one of Xerxes naval commanders during the Persian Wars including at
the Battle of Salamis. Herodotus reports that Artemisia "sailed
in command of the men of Helicarnassus, Cos, Nisyra and Calydia and
furnished five ships of war
not one of the confederate commanders
gave Xerxes sounder advice than she did."
- Turkish women
have fought voluntarily in several wars as combatants. One, Nana Hatun,
fought so gallantly in the 1877-1878 Ottoman-Russian War that a memorial
was erected in remembrance of her courage and patriotism in Erzurum
in Eastern Turkey.
- During World
War II, Soviet women engaged in combat in every branch of the armed
forces. Their service as combat pilots was especially notable. The
most famous of these were the Night Witches, an all women squadron
of bomber pilots, who flew only at night because their canvas and
wood bi-planes were too slow to fly day-light missions. A Soviet woman
became the first woman Ace with 12 kills. 30 Soviet women pilots were
declared "Heroes of the Soviet Union."
commonly serve as combatants in irregular and guerilla forces. They
were combatants in El Salvador. They are involved in combat on both
sides of the Sri Lanka fighting. A woman, Maryan Rajavi, commands
Iranian National Liberation Army operating on behalf of the government
in exile and opposed to the current regime.