In honor of Women’s History Month, we rounded up a new set of facts about the contributions of female service members. How many of these do you know?
#1. Female Marines didn’t always attend boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina. Prior to 1949, female Marine recruits received their training at pre-existing female Navy training schools or at the Marine Corps’ Women Reserve School at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina.
#2. In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt established the Navy Nurse Corps. The first 20 women of the Corps (known as “The Sacred Twenty”) were lead by Esther Hasson who served as a Army contract nurse in the Spanish American War before being appointed head of the Corps.
#3. During WWII, hundreds of women participated in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program. These pioneer female pilots helped test and ferry military aircraft around the country and were led by Jacqueline Cochran, the first woman to break the sound barrier. In 1977, WASP members were officially recognized as Air Force veterans. In 2010, they were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
#4. In 1998, Cmdr. Maureen A. Farren became the first woman to lead a combatant ship, the USS Mount Vernon.
#5. Coast Guard Seaman Ina J. Toavs became the first woman to receive the Coast Guard Medal in 1979 for assisting in the rescue of an unconscious fisherman near Bodega Bay, California. The Coast Guard Medal is a peacetime award given for acts of heroism outside of combat.
#6. In 1984, Kristine Holderied became the first woman to graduate as valedictorian of her class at the U.S. Naval Academy. She now works as an oceanographer in Alaska for NOAA and recently won an Employee of the Year Award.
#7. Earlier this year, Brig. Gen. Diana Holland (pictured at top) became the first woman to serve as the West Point Commandant of Cadets.
#8. In 1978, Joan C. Bynum, a Navy nurse, became first black female promoted to the rank of captain.
#9. Maternity uniforms weren’t introduced until the 1970s, when women were first permitted to continue serving in the military throughout and after their pregnancies. Now, all branches offer pregnancy uniforms for expecting female service members.
#10. In 1980, the 54 women graduated from America’s service academies for the first time. Over half the graduates from the U.S. Naval Academy went on to become career naval officers.
Want to learn more about women’s military history? Check out our story from last year.
You can send a message of support and thanks directly to service members via the USO’s Campaign to Connect. Your messages will appear on screens at USO locations around the world.