FEMINIST FRIDAY

Saturday, November 11 is a day set aside to honor our country’s Veterans of War.  Today I am using this space to honor American Women Veterans.

World War I

(1917-1918)

More than 35,000 American women served in the military during World War I.

Their service helped propel the passage of the 19th Amendment

Upwards of 25,000 American women between the ages of 21 and 69 served overseas during World War I. They began going in August of 1914—at first singly or with a few companions, later with service organizations, and lastly at the request of the U.S. government. Although the largest number were nurses, women served in numerous other capacities – from administrators and secretaries to telephone operators and architects. Many women continued to serve long after Armistice Day, some returning home as late as 1923. Their efforts and contributions in the Great War left a lasting legacy that inspired change across the nation. The service of these women helped propel the passage of the 19th Amendment, June 4, 1919, guaranteeing women the right to vote.

Army nurses were sent to Europe to support the American Expeditionary Forces. Training with gas masks was mandatory for all women serving in France in WWI. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Women's Museum)

Army Nurse Corps

Army Nurse Corps

More than half of the women who served in the U.S. armed forces in World War I – roughly 21,000 – belonged to the Army Nurse Corps.

U.S. Army Signal Corps

U.S. Army Signal Corps

The U.S. Army Signal Corps recruited and trained more than 220 women – best known as the “Hello Girls” – to serve overseas as bilingual telephone operators.

Civilian Welfare Organizations

Civilian Welfare Organization

Women served in large numbers in civilian welfare organizations both at home and abroad, including the American Red Cross, YMCA, and Salvation Army.

Historical Highlights

World War II

(1939-1945)

‘To free a man to fight’

Although the idea of women in the Army other than the Army Nurse Corps was not completely abandoned following World War I, it was not until the threat of world war loomed again that renewed interest was given to this issue. With the rumblings of World War II on the horizon, Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts states, “I was resolved that our women would not again serve with the Army without the same protection the men got.” Consequently, the creation of the Women’s Army Corps is one of the most dramatic gender-changing events in American history.

Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) were the first brave women to fly American military aircraft. They forever changed the role of women in aviation.

Women step up to perform an array of critical Army jobs, “to free a man to fight.” They work in hundreds of fields such as military intelligence, cryptography, parachute rigging, maintenance and supply, to name a few. Additionally, more than 60,000 Army Nurses serve around the world and over 1,000 women flew aircraft for the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots. Through the course of the war, 140,000 women served in the U.S. Army and the Women’s Army Corps proved itself vital to the effort. The selfless sacrifice of these brave women usher in new economic and social changes that will forever alter the role of women in American society.

A Permanent Presence

(1945-1954)

Gender and racial integration

The period immediately following World War II was one of uncertainty and constant change for the Women’s Army Corps personnel. The original intent of the WAC was to last for the duration of the war plus 6-months. However, this post-war period also marked great strides for integrating both the WAC and the Army Nurse Corps into the Regular Army.

Historical Highlights

Professional and Poised

(1955-1970)

The Women’s Army marches on

After the Korean War, and with the move of the WAC Training Center and School to Fort McClellan, Ala., the focus of the Corps shifted to the examination of management practices and the image of the WAC. The WAC directors in the 1950s and 1960s sought to expand WAC by increasing the types of jobs available in the Army, and by promoting the Corps to not only possible recruits, but also to their family members. The leadership worked hard to act as role models and to instruct the women to respect the Corps, take pride in their work, and ensure that their personal behavior and appearance was always above reproach. Their success was marked by a request from the Army chief of staff to lift the recruitment ceiling on the number of women. It was also during this era we see the removal of restrictions on promotions, assignments and utilization.

A Time of Change

(1970-1978)

Moving toward equality and the disestablishment of the WAC

The Vietnam War, the elimination of the draft, and the rise of the feminist movement had a major impact on both the Women’s Army Corps and Army Nurse Corps. There was a renewed emphasis on parity and increased opportunity for women in uniform.

A New Era

(1980s-1990s)

Providing greater opportunities for women

The disestablishment of the WAC and the integration of women into the Regular Army paved the way for women to continue breaking down gender barriers. In the ensuing years, the Army was called upon to respond to regional conflicts, natural disasters and humanitarian crises around the globe. The roles of Army Women are tested and re-defined during these contingency operations.

Post 9/11

(2001-Present)

Looking to the future

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 mark a pivotal changing point for Army women. As the Army’s mission changed on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, so did the roles of women in its ranks. With the Global War on Terror campaign, there was a rapid expansion of jobs and change in roles for Army women. Beginning In 2016, women have the equal right to choose any military occupational specialty including ground combat units that were previously unauthorized.

 Please feel free to add a link to your post about a special Veteran in your life in the comments section.

About Bernadette

I live in the small town of Haddonfield, NJ. I am at an age in my life when I seem to spend time thinking and musing about life. These musings are usually stimulated by my walks through Haddonfield, my reading of books and fellow bloggers, and my interaction with my group of fabulous family and friends.

30 Responses

  1. Bernadette, this is a superb article spanning th centuries. This must have taken so much time and effort to research and collate – thank you so much! It’s been fascinating to read about the role of women in the military from initially having to disguise themselves as men to at last being fully integrated into the military on all levels. It’s shocking how long this transition has taken! Wishing you a good weekend. 😀❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Some remarkable women there. I’d never heard of them before, so I’m grateful for the education! Next step, female President? Some might say it’s a pity that hasn’t already happened….

    Liked by 2 people

  3. What a thorough and enlightening post about the remarkable women who have contributed so much to our country and the military. I’m so proud of nurses reading through this as they were pivotal and brave in helping to advance women’s roles.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What an amazing piece, Bernadette! I learned so much ! Thank YOU for sharing this and know that I am going to share with others. Women play a very important part in our world and in the military and you have done a fabulous job of compiling a wonderful tribute. Thank you!

    Like

  5. What an amazing tribute to the women who have contributed to the protection of our country and their brothers and sisters in war. Wow, Bernadette, this was great and filled me with such pride. It was so interesting to see the steps through time along this path toward equality in military service, and those ground-breaking individuals that paved the way. A wonderful post for Memorial Day. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Bernadette, This note is not about this particular post, but to check on you, and to let you know I am thinking of you. I want you to know that the followers of your blog consider you a Woman That Rocks, and a ‘rock’ for many of us as you continually support women. We want you to know that as you have lifted us up, we are here to lift and carry you when you need us.

    Liked by 1 person

THANK YOU FOR READING. I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR COMMENTS.

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