Here are 12 pieces of trivia about the legacy of women in the United States military. See if you know them:
- Although they weren’t officially enlisted at first, women have served in the U.S. Army since 1775. In the 18th century, American women tended to the wounded, washed and mended clothing and cooked for male troops.
In 1779, Margaret Corbin became the first woman to receive a military pension. During the Revolutionary War, Corbin manned her husband’s canon after he was shot and killed in battle. Corbin was subsequently injured in the same battle and never fully recovered from her wounds.
After the Civil War, Dr. Mary E. Walker was awarded the Medal of Honor for her work as a contract surgeon in the Union Army. She’s the only woman to receive this award. In 1917, Walker was stripped of her medal due to changes in regulations. After many appeals, her medal was reinstated in 1977.
In 1866, Cathay Williams was the first African American woman to enlist in the Army, doing so under the pseudonym William Cathay. She was assigned to the 38th U.S. Infantry. Despite being hospitalized for illness several times, she managed to hide her gender for almost two years before a post surgeon discovered she was a female, leading to her discharge.
Women were officially allowed to join the U.S. military during last two years of World War I, and 33,000 of them signed up to work as nurses and in other support roles. More than 400 nurses died serving America during the Great War.
In 1918, twins Genevieve and Lucille Baker became two of the first women to serve in the Coast Guard.
7. Navy Rear Adm. Grace Hopper was one of the first – and most influential – computer programmers. Hopper played an important role in the development of the COBOL programming language and helped shape how programmers code today. Also, she’s often credited with popularizing the term “debugging.”
- During World War II, 88 American women were captured and held as prisoners of war.
9. Brig. Gen. Hazel W. Johnson-Brown was the first African American woman to become an Army general. Brown enlisted in 1955 and later became the chief of the Army Nurse Corps.
- Females weren’t allowed to attend the four service academies until 1976. The USO’s magazine On Patrol profiled some of these women in its Spring 2012 issue.
In 2004, Col. Linda McTague became the first woman commander of an Air National Guard wing and also the first woman to command an Air Force fighter squadron.
In 2005, Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester (pictured at the beginning of this story) became the first woman since World War II to receive the Silver Star for combat actions.
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In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re looking back at some of the famous females who have helped shape the history of the USO. From World War II to today, these nine women are just a few of the many who have traveled near and far to entertain service members at home and abroad.