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March is Women’s History Month. Take a look back through time at the contributions women have made throughout history.

1775 - 1783

Women commonly served traditional roles within the U.S. Army such as cooks, laundresses, nurses and seamstresses. Many military garrisons counted on these roles to make servicemembers’ lives tolerable. However, even during the American Revolution, some women chose to forego traditional roles by serving in combat alongside their husbands or disguised as men, while other courageous women took on roles as spies.


Mary Marshall and Mary Allen serve as nurses aboard Commodore Stephen Decatur’s ship, the United States.

1861 - 1865

Dr. Mary Edwards Walker volunteers to care for wounded servicemembers in the Union Army and is later appointed the first female surgeon. In 1865, she received the Medal of Honor for her work and was the first woman to receive the award.


Congress officially establishes the Army Nurse Corps on February 2, 1901, under the Army Reorganization Act.


The Navy Nurse Corps was established by Congress in 1908, but at that time no provision was made for rank or rating comparable to the Navy’s male personnel. While they have never held actual rank, the Navy nurses have since been accorded privileges similar to those of officers. Under a congressional enactment approved by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on July 3, 1942, members of the Navy Nurse Corps were granted relative rank.


The Navy allows women to enlist and serve stateside during World War I. Most of the 11,000 female yeoman who enlisted worked in Washington, D.C., as draftsmen, interpreters, couriers and translators. Later in World War I, the Navy enlisted 24 African-American women who worked in the Navy Department building.


Opha Mae Johnson becomes the first woman accepted for duty when she enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in Washington, D.C.


President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorizes the creation of the Army, Navy and Coast Guard women’s auxiliary/reserves. The Army’s female auxiliary members become known as the WAACs; their Navy counterparts become known as the WAVEs.


The WAACs transition into the Women’s Army Corps, giving the more than 76,000 women who had enlisted as WAACs full military status. WAACs director, Col. Oveta Culp Hobby, continued in her post as the WAACs transitioned to WACs. The U.S. Marine Corps creates a Women’s Reserve.


The Women’s Armed Services Integration Act grants women permanent regular and reserve status in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and the newly created Air Force. In addition, Executive Order 9981 ends racial segregation in the armed services.


Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Barbara Olive Barnwell becomes the first female Marine to be awarded the Navy and Marine Corps medal for heroism for saving a fellow Marine from drowning in the Atlantic Ocean in 1952.


Marine Corps Master Sgt. Barbara Jean Dulinsky becomes the first female Marine to serve in a combat zone in Vietnam. She was assigned to U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam combat operations center in Saigon.


Navy Lt. j.g. Barbara Ann (Allen) Rainey earns her wings as the first female Naval aviator.


President Gerald R. Ford signs Public Law 94-106 on Oct. 7, 1975, permitting women to enroll in U.S. military academies beginning in the fall of 1976.


Women enter U.S. military academies as students for the first time; 119 women entered West Point, 81 entered the Naval Academy, and 157 enrolled at the Air Force Academy. Women also enrolled in the Coast Guard Academy and the Merchant Marine Academy.


The U.S. Coast Guard assigns its first co-gender crews when 24 women are assigned to serve aboard CGC Gallatin and CGC Morgenthau. Each ship receives 12 women — two officers and 10 enlisted personnel — as members of the crew.


Marine Corps Col. Margaret A. Brewer becomes a brigadier general — the first female general in the Corps’ history. Navy nurse Joan C. Bynum becomes the first African-American woman to be promoted to the rank of captain.


The first coed classes graduate from the U.S. service academies.


Navy Lt. Cmdr. Darlene Iskra becomes the first woman to command a commissioned naval ship when she assumes command of the USS Opportune in Naples, Italy.


Defense Secretary Les Aspin announces the new policy regarding women in combat that rescinds the 1988 “risk rule” and replaces it with a less restrictive ground combat policy. As a result of this policy, 80% of all military positions can now be filled by either men or women.


Gilda Jackson becomes the first African-American woman to achieve the rank of colonel within the Marine Corps and the first woman to command the Naval Aviation Depot at Cherry Point, N.C.


Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Carol Mutter becomes the first female three-star officer in the U.S. Armed Forces when she assumes the position of deputy chief of staff for Manpower and Reserve Affairs at Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C.


Marine Corps Capt. Vernice Armour becomes the first female African-American pilot in the Marine Corps, and later becomes the first woman in Defense Department history to fly combat missions in Iraq.


Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Jeanine McIntish-Menze becomes the first female African-American U.S. Coast Guard pilot. Air Force Maj. Nicole Malachowski becomes the first female pilot to join the Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron.


After enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1974, Angela Salinas works her way through the ranks to make history by becoming the first female Hispanic brigadier general in the corps.


The first all-female U.S. Marine Corps team conducts its first mission in Southern Afghanistan. Lt. Felicia Thomas becomes the first female African-Amercian commander of a U.S. Coast Guard cutter when she assumes command of the CGC Pea Island.


Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announces that for the first time, women can be assigned to submarines. Lt. j.g. La’Shonda Holmes becomes the first female African-American helicopter pilot in the Coast Guard. Navy Rear Adm. Nora Tyson becomes the first female commander of a carrier strike group.


U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Sandra Stosz assumes command of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy as the school’s first female superintendant. As she assumes her new role, Stosz becomes the first woman to lead any U.S. military academy.