Seventy years ago, in 1948, women Veterans were given a landmark step up with the passing of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act – for the first time, we were able to serve permanently during peacetime. This legislation, while imperfect, set the stage for the expansions that followed.
Women have been a vital part of the military community since our nation’s founding, and though our stories are not as well known, millions of women have volunteered to serve with the U.S. Armed Forces throughout the nation’s history. All have been volunteers, as women have never been subject to the draft.
Over 240 years ago, the first woman earned a military pension for fighting in the American Revolution. Women then continued to fight alongside their male counterparts in disguise for the next 140 years.
It wasn’t until just 100 years ago that Loretta Perfectus Walsh became the first woman to officially enlist in the regular military with equal pay and rank. This year marks the 100 year anniversary of the first Woman Marine, Opha Mae Johnson.
Although allowed to serve during wartime, women were subjected to outlandish uniform requirements, like skirts and girdles for the 35,000 women who served overseas in WWI. Pants were not authorized till WWII, just 75 years ago, bringing function and comfort for the 350,000 women who served.
The timeline for acceptance has advanced swiftly since then, with women breaking through barriers to attend service academies, fly and serve in combat, serve on submarines and in infantry