Women Served to Protect
It is no longer a secret that the contributions of women have simply been left out of much of our history. The goal of Women’s History Month is to recognize and celebrate the contributions of women in modern times and throughout history. Since the United States’ fight for independence, women have served to protect.
Revolutionary and Civil War
Some women found ways to join the fight for independence. Margaret Corbin, for example, disguised herself as a man and traveled with her husband to the front lines of the Battle of Fort Washington,
where she helped him load his cannon. During the Civil War, nurse and founder of the Red Cross Clara Barton even received a special “military pass” that permitted her to travel directly onto the battlefield, to tend wounded soldiers.
World War I and World War II
At the onset of the United States’ entry into World War I in 1917, the U.S. Army Nurse Corps (ANC) only had 403 nurses in its active-duty ranks. One year later there were more than 3,000 American nurses deployed to British-operated hospitals in France. Women of the United States also stepped up during World War II, and for the first time in history, all branches of the military enlisted women in their ranks. Women were WAACS, WASPS, Marine Corp Women Reserve, and SPARS. Nearly 350,000 American women served in uniform during World War II in non-combatant roles.
In 1948, three years after the end of WW II, President Harry S. Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act into law. This officially allowing up to 2% of women in each branch to serve as permanent members of all Armed Forces but could automatically be discharged if they became pregnant. One month after the act’s passing, President Truman signed an Executive Order, desegregating the military and ensuring that Black women could serve in all branches as well.
The 80s, 90s and Today
The end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, there were a lot of “firsts” for women in the military: the first woman to become a Navy fighter pilot; the first female four-star general in the Army; and the first female rescue swimmer in the Coast Guard, among others.
Still Pushing Boundaries
Women continue to make history in the military today. More than 300,000 women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11, more than 9,000 have earned Combat Action Badges and today, women make up 16% of our nation’s Armed Forces, serving in every branch of the U.S. military. Women are serving in greater numbers, in combat roles and in leadership positions all around the world.
Thank you for your Service
From the battlefields of the American Revolution to the deserts of Kuwait, women have been serving in the military in one form or another for more than 200 years. Join me in thanking our men and women in our military for their sacrifice and bravery.
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