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Army Women in History

1700

Women civilians serve primarily as laundresses, nurses, cooks and spies in the French and Indian War, and the American Revolutionary War. more...

1700

Women civilians serve primarily as laundresses, nurses, cooks and spies in the French and Indian War, and the American Revolutionary War. Some serve as water bearers and soldiers, fighting beside their husbands or, like Deborah Samson, disguising themselves as men.

1775

Commander-in-Chief George Washington asks Congress for one contract nurse for every 10 patients and a supervising matron for every 100 patients.

1861

Women civilians continue to serve primarily as nurses, laundresses and cooks, but some also as color bearers, and a few as warriors. more...

1861

  • Women civilians continue to serve primarily as nurses, laundresses and cooks, but some also as color bearers, and a few as warriors.
  • Dorothea Lynde Dix is appointed Superintendent of Women Nurses for the Union Army.
  • Roughly 6,000 women provide nursing to federal troops during the war.

1863

Harriett Tubman, under direction of Union Gen. Rufus Saxton, organizes and leads a group of scouts in South Carolina to gather information on confederate forces.

1864

Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, a civilian surgeon serving the Union forces, is captured and held as a Prisoner of War from April to August.

1865

Dr. Walker is awarded the Medal of Honor for her work serving the Union Army during the Civil War.

1866

Cathay Williams enlists in U.S. Army using the name William Cathay, is assigned to the 38th US Infantry and serves less than two years before she is discharged.

1898

At the start of the Spanish-American War, Congress grants authority for Army to hire women nurses under contract. More than 1,500 women serve as nurses from 1898 to 1901.

1901

Army Nurse Corps is established as permanent part of the Army Medical Department.

1917-1918

More than 21,000 Army nurses work in military hospitals in the U.S. and abroad. The Army recruits more than 200 bilingual telephone operators to work switchboards near the front in France.

1920

Army Reorganization Act grants nurses officer rank but without the same privileges and rights as men.

1941

Massachusetts Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers introduces bill to establish Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps.

1942

Sixty-six Army nurses stationed in the Philippines are among those captured by the Japanese at the fall of Corregidor and held as Prisoners of War. more...

1942

  • Sixty-six Army nurses stationed in the Philippines are among those captured by the Japanese at the fall of Corregidor and held as Prisoners of War.
  • Congress passes the bill creating the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), and authorizes up to 150,000 positions.
  • Oveta Culp Hobby is sworn in as the first director.
  • First enlistees report to the WAAC’s training center at Des Moines, IA, its first training center.
  • Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) is established. The female pilots transport planes from factories to military bases.
  • WAAC exceeds its initial recruitment goal of 25,000.

1943

First WAAC unit overseas reports to Algiers.Congress passes bill to convert WAAC into the regular Army, and renames it the Women’s Army Corps. more...

1943

  • First WAAC unit overseas reports to Algiers.Congress passes bill to convert WAAC into the regular Army, and renames it the Women’s Army Corps.
  • 1st Lt. Cordelia E. Cook, an Army nurse serving in Italy, is first woman to receive the Bronze Star.
  • WAFS and WFTD merge to form Women’s Air Force Service Pilots.

1944

More than 5,000 women serve in the Southwest Pacific region from 1944 to 1955. WASPS are disbanded.

1945

The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, an all-black WAC unit, receives orders for Europe. more...

1945

  • The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, an all-black WAC unit, receives orders for Europe. They are stationed in England and then France.
  • Nurses captured at the fall of Corregidor are liberated by U.S. troops.

1946

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower directs legislation to include WACS in the Regular Army and the Organized Reserve Corps. more...

1946

  • Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower directs legislation to include WACS in the Regular Army and the Organized Reserve Corps.
  • WAC officers arrive in Japan for assignment to the 8000th WAC Battalion.
  • Congress passes legislation to provide re-employment rights for WAC and WAAC.

1947

Women’s Medical Specialist Corps established.

1948

WACs with prior service are enlisted in the Regular Army. more...

1948

  • WACs with prior service are enlisted in the Regular Army.
  • WAC Training Center is established at Camp Lee, VA.
  • Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1948 ensures women have permanent status in the active and reserve forces.

1949

WAC, Army of the United States, is terminated. Honorably discharged WACs AUS re-enlist in WAC Regular Army.

1950

Women college graduates receive first direct commissions as second lieutenants in the Organized Reserve Corps. more...

1950

  • Women college graduates receive first direct commissions as second lieutenants in the Organized Reserve Corps.
  • Enlistments extended for WACs and reserve WAC officers involuntarily recalled to active duty for the support of the Korean War.
  • More than 500 nurses serve in the combat zone.

1954

First WAC Officer Advanced Course opens at the WAC School at Fort Lee, VA. more...

1954

  • First WAC Officer Advanced Course opens at the WAC School at Fort Lee, VA.
  • Limited Veterans Administration benefits are available to WAAC personnel with line of duty disabilities.
  • Congress passes the Reserve Officers Personnel Act.

1956

WAC permanent training center and home opens at Fort McClellan, AL.

1962

WAC turns 20. Total personnel strength is 9,495.

1963

Weapons familiarization and voluntary firing is removed from WAC training when Army determines the one pound additional weight of its new rifle was too heavy for a woman to handle.

1965

First WAC officers are assigned to HQ, US Army, Vietnam. Throughout the war, 9,000 nurses and 800 WACs serve in Vietnam.

1967

Congress passes law that removes promotion restrictions on women and allows WACs to be appointed in the National Guard.

1968

SGM Yzetta Nelson becomes first WAC to achieve the highest enlisted rank, command sergeant major.

1969

The Women’s Army Corps Foundation is incorporated to raise money to build the WAC Museum at Fort McClellan, AL. more...

1969

  • The Women’s Army Corps Foundation is incorporated to raise money to build the WAC Museum at Fort McClellan, AL.
  • The first three women graduate from the Army War College.
  • Army Nurse Corps 1st Lieutenant Sharon A. Lane dies in Vietnam as a result of enemy fire. She is the only American military woman to die under such circumstances during the Vietnam War.

1970

Anna Mae Hays, Chief of the Army Nurse Corps, and Elizabeth P. Hoisington, Director of the Women’s Army Corps, are first women to achieve the rank of brigadier general. more...

1970

  • Anna Mae Hays, Chief of the Army Nurse Corps, and Elizabeth P. Hoisington, Director of the Women’s Army Corps, are first women to achieve the rank of brigadier general.
  • Women are allowed entry to male Drill Sergeant Schools and NCO Academy.
  • Women for the first time are allowed to command men, except for combat units.

1973

The end of the draft and key steps by the Army Chief of Staff advance opportunities for women. more...

1973

  • The end of the draft and key steps by the Army Chief of Staff advance opportunities for women.
  • Helicopter and fixed-wing flight training is approved for WAC officers.
  • Enlisted women can go to Parachute Rigger training and jump school.
  • The last Army nurses depart Vietnam.
  • More than 5,000 nurses serve in Vietnam between 1962 and 1973.

1974

Voluntary weapons training is reinstated for WACs. SGM Mildred Kelly is promoted to Command Sergeant Major, becoming the first black command sergeant major in the WAC.

1975

Weapons training is mandatory for WACs.

1976

Military Academies open to women. Some 120 women enter West Point as part of Class of 1980. WAC total strength grows to 46,444.

1977

Men and women train together for first time in Military Police and Signal Corps.more...

1977

  • Men and women train together for first time in Military Police and Signal Corps.
  • Women serve in nuclear security and as crew members at long-range missile and rocket sites.
  • First women are commissioned in the Field Artillery and Air Defense Artillery branches.

1978

WAC is officially disestablished. Men and women attend same basic training. BG Mary E. Clarke, who served as WAC Director since 1975, is promoted to Major General, Active Military Service.

1979

Hazel Johnson-Brown of the Army Nurse Corps becomes first African American woman to achieve rank of Brigadier General and chief of the Army Nurse Corps.

1980

Women make up 9.1% of the Army. WAAC service considered active service for Veterans Administration benefits.

1981

Army caps end-strength for women: 65,000 enlisted and 7,200 officers.

1982

Women and men return to separate basic training. More women enlist. Secretary of Defense increases total women end strength to 70,000 enlisted and 13,000 officers.

1983

More than 100 women take part in Operation Urgent Fury, Grenada, serving in law enforcement, intelligence, logistics, mechanics, and more. Women fly helicopters for first time in armed conflict.

1989

More than 700 women participate in Operation Just Cause, Panama. Captain Linda Bray is first woman to lead U.S. troops in combat. The U.S. Military Academy names its first woman brigade commander.

1990

Some 26,000 women deploy to the Persion Gulf for Operation Desert Shield/Storm. Women are assigned to Forward Support Units.

1991

Two Army women are captured by Iraqis and held as prisoners of war.

1993

Secretary of Defense Les Aspin announces combat aviation jobs to open to women. Army names its first woman Drill Sergeant of the Year, Staff Sgt. Jill Henderson of Fort McClellan, AL.

1994

Men and women again are to go through basic training together, first at Fort Leonard Wood, MO.

1995

Women serve in Military Intelligence, Quartermaster Corps, Signal, Transportation Company and other jobs in the Bosnian Operation. 2nd Lieutenant Rebecca Marier is West Point’s first woman valedictorian.

1996

The first woman guards the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

1997

Claudia Kennedy becomes first woman in the Army to achieve the rank of lieutenant general.

1999

Women participate in the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, Operation Joint Guardian.

2001

Coral Wong Pietsch becomes the first Asian-American woman in the Army to attain the rank of brigadier general.

2002

CSM Michele Jones is first woman to become top enlisted advisor of the Army Reserve.

2003

Women make up 15.2 percent of the Army, up from 9.8 percent 20 years earlier.

2005

SGT Leigh Ann Hester is the first woman to be awarded the Silver Star since World War II and the first ever to be awarded the Silver Star for direct combat action.

2007

SPC. Monica Brown is the first woman in Afghanistan and the second woman since World War II to be awarded the Silver Star.

2008

Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody is the first woman four-star general in military history and the first woman to lead a major Army command.

2010

Sgt. Sherri Gallegher is first woman to win Best Warrior Soldier of the Year.

2011

A congressionally directed commission recommends allowing women to serve in combat arms.more...

2011

  • A congressionally directed commission recommends allowing women to serve in combat arms.
  • LTG Patricia Horoho is first woman and first nurse to lead the U.S. Army Medical Command.
  • BG Gwen Bingham is the first woman to serve as quartermaster general and the first African-American woman Quartermaster Corps general.

2012

Brig. Gen. Margaret W. Burcham is the first woman to be promoted to general officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. more...

2012

  • Brig. Gen. Margaret W. Burcham is the first woman to be promoted to general officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
  • The Army opens six combat-related military occupation specialties to women.
  • BG Laura Richardson is first woman division deputy commander when she joins 1st Cavalry Division.
  • 101st Airborne Division gets first woman chaplain in a combat arms unit.
  • Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody, the first woman to wear four stars, retires.

2013

Secretary of Defense rescinds direct ground combat exclusion rule; services to plan to integrate fully by January 2016. more...

2013

  • Secretary of Defense rescinds direct ground combat exclusion rule; services to plan to integrate fully by January 2016.
  • Four women to become Army’s first women Abrams tank maintainers.
  • First women soldiers graduate artillery mechanic course.
  • Brig. Gen. Flora D. Darpino is promoted to three stars, and becomes the Army’s 39th Judge Advocate General. She is the first woman in the JAG 236 year history to serve as the top lawyer.

2014

Army announces it will open 33,000 positions to women in spring. more...

2014

  • Army announces it will open 33,000 positions to women in spring.
  • Army moves toward opening Ranger School to women; chooses women advisors.
  • Army announces it is allocating 160 seats for women in the two-week Army National Guard Training and Assessment Course.
  • More women had volunteered for Ranger School.

2015

Army announces in January that 60 women will be allowed to participate in the next Army Ranger course assessment. Existing policy still allows only men to serve as Rangers.