Nowadays, women can serve in the US military as equals to their male counterparts. But it wasn’t like that. Same as with the right to vote, women had to endure long road to get to the right to serve in the military. The fight for the right to serve in the military started back during the revolutionary war. With that in mind, here is a quick timeline of important events that preceded the right of women to serve in the US military.
During the Revolutionary War from 1775 to 1783, women actually followed their husbands to war out of necessity. They served in the military camps as nurses, laundresses, and cooks. However, they could do that only with a permission from the commanding officer, and only if they proved to be helpful. Otherwise, they were sent home, and their husbands to the battlefield.
Deborah Sampson was one of the first women to fight for the right to serve in the US military. She actually served for one year in General Washington’s army. But the trick is, she did it disguised as a man. Officers discovered she was a female after she was wounded. She was honorably discharged, and she received military pension from the Continental congress.
During the Mexican War from 1846 to 1848, Elizabeth Newocm enlists in the Missouri Volunteer Infantry as Bill Newcom. Same as Deborah Sampson, she pretends to be a man. She marches 600 miles to winter camp in Colorado before being discovered and discharged.
During the American Civil War that lasted from 1861 to 1865, women are actually allowed to serve in the military. However, their rank is “matrons”, or administrators of hospitals. They also work as nurses and cooks in both Union and Confederate battlefield hospitals. Wealthy women even fund permanent hospitals. Dr. Mary Walkers is known as the first woman to receive the Medal of Honor, which is the highest military honor in the United States. She does it because of her service as an assistant surgeon during the War. She was captured by the Confederate Army.
During the Spanish American War in 1898, more than 1,500 women serve as nurses. They are assigned to Army hospitals in the United State. Some serve as support staff, and even spies disguised as men. Many women also were disguised as men in order to serve in the military.
During the last two years of the War, women were allowed to join the military. Again, they served as nurses and support staff. During World War I, more than 33,000 women serve in the US military Army as nurses. During the war, more than 400 die in the line of duty.
The number of women serving in the army rose during the second world war. This time, more than 400,000 women serve at home and abroad as pilots, administrators, nurses, mechanics, and ambulance drives. According to history numbers, 88 women are captured and held as prisoners of war.
In 1948, the US Congress passed the Women’s Armed Service Integration Act, a crucial act enabling women to serve in the military. The act grants women permanent status in the military subject to military authority and regulations and entitled to veteran benefits.
Same as with other wars before, more than 50,000 women serve at home and abroad. This time, army nurses are allowed to serve in combat zones and hospital ships.
The Vietnam War is one of the most well-known wars in American history. During the period of 20 years, more than 7,000 women served as nurses in all five divisions of the military. That included the Navy, the Army, the Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. All women serving in the military were volunteers.
The most important date for women in the military is 1973. This was the year the military draft (only for males) ended. Instead, an all-volunteer military is formed, which created equal opportunities for women to serve in the US military.
Just three years after the draft was ended, the first females are admitted to the service academies, at the US Military Academy at West Pint, US NAVA. In 1978, women in the Navy and Marines were allowed to serve on non-combat ships as officers, technicians, and nurses.
During the war in 1991 and 1992, more than 41,000 women are deployed to the combat zone. Out of those, 2 are taken captive. In 1991, the Congress also authorized women to fly in combat missions. In 1993, the Congress authorized women to serve on combat ships.
In 1998, for the first time, a woman fighter pilot flies combat missions off aircraft carrier during the Desert Fox operation in Iraq. During the long war in Iraq, three army women become prisoners of War in 2003. In 2004, Colonel Linda McTague becomes the first woman commander of a fighter squadrom in th US Air Force history.