Military Women Always Existed but were not Always Recognized

In the United States women were not always ranted permission to serve their country, but they often found a way to enter combat regardless of permission. 

During the Revolutionary War, women often accompanied their husbands into battle, but served as nurses and cooks. However, some women served in combat either alongside their husbands or disguised as men, and a few operated as spies. Deborah Sampson Gannett disguised herself as a man in order to serve in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. She fought, but eventually suffered injuries requiring medical attention which led to the discovery that she was a woman. She was honorably discharged and received a pension for her service.

During the Civil War hundreds of women disguised as men and enlisted. Like Sampson, many were not discovered until they were injured on the battlefield.  It was not until 1948 that a law was passed that allowed women to become part of the military and serve. In 1976, the first group of women were admitted into a U.S. military academy. Today, 78 percent of the positions in the Army are open to women.

1775-1783 Revolutionary War: Women served as cooks, nurses and laundresses. Some women serve as spies. Deborah Sampson serves in General Washingtons army under the name Robert Shurtleff

1846-1848 Mexican War: Elizabeth Newcom serves in the Missouri Volunteer Infantry as Bill Newcom

1861-1865 Civil War: Mary Edwards Walker becomes the first and only woman to receive the Medal of Honor

1866: Cathay Williams is the first (and only) documented African American woman to enlist in the army under the name William Cathay.

1898 Spanish American War: 1500 women served in the Stateside Army  Hospitals  while 100’s of others served as spies, staff and under disguise as male soldiers.

1901: Congress establishes the Army Nurse Corps

1908: Congress establishes the Navy Nurse Corps.

1917-1918 WWI: women serve as nurses and support staff and over 400 are killed in action.

1941-1945 WWII: 400,000 women serve in noncombatant roles. Hundreds of others serve as field intelligence agents in the OSS.

1948: Congress passes Women’s Armed Servives Integration Act permitting women to serve as permanent member of the military.

1950-1953 Korean War: 50,000 women serve in the military

1962-1972 Vietnam War: 11,000 military women are deployed. 90% as nurses, 8 women are killed in combat. Elizabeth Barret is the first woman to hold a command in a combat zone. 

1991-1992 Desert Storm: 41,000 women are deployed to the Middle East 

1991-1993: Congress authorizes women to fly in combat and work on ships in combat

2004: Col. Linda McTague becomes the first woman to command a US Air Force fighter squandron

2016: DoD opens all combat jobs to women