Women in the United States Army
There have been women in the United States Army since the Revolutionary War, and women continue to serve in it today. As of fiscal year 2014, women are approximately 14 percent of the active duty Army, 23 percent of the Army Reserve, and 16 percent of the Army National Guard.
Pre-World War IEdit
A few women fought in the Army in the American Revolutionary War while disguised as men. Deborah Sampson fought until her sex was discovered and she was discharged, and Sally St. Clare died in the war. Anna Maria Lane joined her husband in the Army, and by the time of the Battle of Germantown, she was wearing men's clothes. According to the Virginia General Assembly, "in the revolutionary war, in the garb, and with the courage of a soldier, [Lane] performed extraordinary military services, and received a severe wound at the battle of Germantown."
World War IEdit
Approximately 21,000 women served in the Army Nurse Corps during World War I. In 1917 World War I Army nurses Edith Ayres and Helen Wood became the first female members of the U.S. military killed in the line of duty. They were killed on May 20, 1917, while with Base Hospital #12 aboard the USS Mongolia en route to France. The ship’s crew fired the deck guns during a practice drill, and one of the guns exploded, spewing shell fragments across the deck and killing Nurse Ayres and her friend Nurse Helen Wood.
World War II and after until the Korean WarEdit
The Angels of Bataan (also known as the "Angels of Bataan and Corregidor" and "The Battling Belles of Bataan") were the members of the Army Nurse Corps (and the Navy Nurse Corps) who were stationed in the Philippines at the outset of the Pacific War (a theatre of World War II) and served during World War II's Battle of the Philippines (1941–42). When Bataan and Corregidor fell to the Japanese in 1942, 66 army nurses (and 11 Navy nurses and 1 nurse-anesthetist) were captured and imprisoned in and around Manila. They continued to serve as a nursing unit throughout their status as prisoners of war. After years of hardship, they were finally liberated in February 1945.
Also in 1947, Johnnie Phelps, a member of the Women's Army Corps and a lesbian, was told by General Eisenhower, "It's come to my attention that there are lesbians in the WACs, we need to ferret them out...." Phelps replied, "If the General pleases, sir, I'll be happy to do that, but the first name on the list will be mine." Eisenhower's secretary added, "If the General pleases, sir, my name will be first and hers will be second." Phelps then told Eisenhower, "Sir, you're right, there are lesbians in the WACs – and if you want to replace all the file clerks, section commanders, drivers, every woman in the WAC detachment, I will be happy to make that list. But you must know, sir, that they are the most decorated group – there have been no illegal pregnancies, no AWOLs, no charges of misconduct." Eisenhower dropped the idea.
Army women who had joined the Reserves following World War II were involuntarily recalled to active duty during the Korean War. Although no Women's Army Corps unit was sent to Korea, approximately a dozen WACs, including one officer, served in Seoul and Pusan in secretarial, translator, and administrative positions in 1952 and 1953. As well, many WACs served in support positions in Japan and other overseas locations. Over 500 Army nurses served in the combat zone and many more were assigned to large hospitals in Japan. One Army nurse died in a plane crash on her way to Korea on July 27, 1950, shortly after hostilities began.
In 1967, during the Vietnam War, Public Law 90-130 was signed into law; it removed legal ceilings on women's promotions that had kept them out of the general and flag ranks, and dropped the two percent ceiling on officer and enlisted strengths for women in the armed forces. Women’s Army Corps soldiers served in the Vietnam War; at their peak in 1970, WAC presence in Vietnam consisted of some 20 officers and 130 enlisted women.
During the war, Anna Mae Hays, Chief of the Army Nurse Corps, became the first U.S. female brigadier general on June 11, 1970. Minutes later, Elizabeth Hoisington, Director of the Women’s Army Corps, became the second. An Army nurse (1st LT Sharon Ann Lane) was the only US military woman to die from enemy fire in Vietnam. Two other Army nurses were awarded the Soldier’s Medal for heroism in Vietnam; one was African-American 1LT Diane Lindsay. She was cited for restraining a Vietnamese soldier patient, who had pulled a pin from a live grenade at the 95th Evacuation Hospital in Vietnam. 1LT Lindsay helped convince the soldier to relinquish a second grenade, avoiding additional casualties.
Women in the Army since 1972Edit
Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677 (1973), was a landmark Supreme Court case which decided that benefits given by the military to the family of service members cannot be given out differently because of sex.
West Point admitted its first 119 female cadets in 1976, after Congress authorized the admission of women to the federal service academies in 1975. Four years later 62 female cadets graduated, including the first two black female graduates, Joy Dallas and Priscilla "Pat" Walker Locke. In 1989, Kristin Baker became the first female First Captain (an effigy of her is now on display in the Museum), the highest ranking senior cadet at the academy. Rebecca Marier became the academy's first female valedictorian in 1995.
In 1978, the Women's Army Corps was disestablished and its members integrated into the regular Army.
Before the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy was enacted in 1993, lesbians and bisexual women (and gay men and bisexual men) were banned from serving in the military. In 1993 the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy was enacted, which mandated that the military could not ask servicemembers about their sexual orientation. However, until the policy was ended in 2011 service members were still expelled from the military if they engaged in sexual conduct with a member of the same sex, stated that they were lesbian, gay, or bisexual, and/or married or attempted to marry someone of the same sex.
In 1994, the Pentagon declared:
Service members are eligible to be assigned to all positions for which they are qualified, except that women shall be excluded from assignment to units below the brigade level whose primary mission is to engage in direct combat on the ground.
That policy also excluded women being assigned to certain organizations based upon proximity to direct combat or "collocation" as the policy specifically referred to it. According to the Army, collocation occurs when, "the position or unit routinely physically locates and remains with a military unit assigned a doctrinal mission to routinely engage in direct combat."
In 1996, the Aberdeen scandal, a military sexual assault scandal, which occurred at Aberdeen Proving Ground, a United States Army base in Maryland resulted in the Army bringing charges against 12 commissioned and non-commissioned male officers for sexual assault on female trainees under their command with four officers sentenced to prison time.
American women in the Army served in the Afghanistan War from 2001 until 2014, and in the Iraq War from 2003 until 2011. In 2008, Ann Dunwoody became the first female four-star general in the Army; she was also the first in the military. In 2011, Patricia Horoho became the first female Army surgeon general.
In 2013, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta removed the military's ban on women serving in combat, overturning the 1994 rule. Panetta's decision gave the military services until January 2016 to seek special exceptions if they believed any positions must remain closed to women. The services had until May 2013 to draw up a plan for opening all units to women and until the end of 2015 to actually implement it.
In August 2015, Kristen Marie Griest and Shaye Lynne Haver became the first two women to graduate from the US Army Ranger School. In October 2015, Lisa Jaster became the third woman to graduate from this school, and the first one from the Army Reserves.
Brig. Gen. Diana Holland became West Point's first woman Commandant of Cadets in January 2016.
In March 2016, Ash Carter approved final plans from military service branches and the U.S. Special Operations Command to open all combat jobs to women, and authorized the military to begin integrating female combat soldiers "right away."
In April 2016, Tammy Barnett became the first woman to enlist in the infantry in the U.S. Army, and Kristen Marie Griest became the first female infantry officer in the U.S. Army when the U.S. Army approved her request to transfer there from a military police unit. In May 2016, Shelby Atkins became the first female U.S. Army noncommissioned officer to be granted the infantry military occupational specialty.
It was announced on June 30, 2016 that, beginning on that date, otherwise qualified United States service members could not any longer be discharged, denied reenlistment, involuntarily separated, or denied continuation of service because of being transgender (including but not limited to transgender women). Beginning on January 1, 2018, openly transgender people (including but not limited to transgender women) were allowed to join the military.
On October 26, 2016, ten women became the first female graduates from the United States Army's Infantry Basic Officer Leader's Course at Fort Benning, Georgia.
In 2017, eighteen women graduated from the United States Army's first gender-integrated infantry basic training for enlisted soldiers.
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