“Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.”
– Marilyn Monroe (former Rosie the Riveter)
Continued from: Women in the Military Part I (1775-1920)
1941-1945 (World War II)
- Over 60,000 Army nurses served overseas and in the U.S.
- Over 14,000 Navy nurses served overseas and in the U.S.
- (1942) The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) was created.
- (1942) The SPARs (from the motto Semper Paratus – Always Ready) was established by the Coast Guard, with women serving in various stateside positions.
- (1942) Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) began recruiting for the Navy Women’s Reserve. More than 80,000 women served in the WAVES before the end of the war, serving shore billets from intelligence to administration.
- (1942) The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) was organized, flying stateside missions as test pilots, anti-aircraft artillery trainers and ferriers.
- (1943) WAAC converted to the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), with over 150,000 women serving, including thousands in the Pacific and European theaters.
- (1943) The Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was created, with women serving in various stateside positions.
- (1943) The Cadet Nurse Corps is established by the U.S. Public Health Service.
- Granting permanent commissioned officer status, the Army-Navy Nurse Act incorporates the Army Nurse Corps and Women’s Medical Specialist Corps (Navy) permanent staff corps within the military.
- Women are granted permanent regular and reserve force status within the branches through the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act.
- Air Force Nurse Corps is created.
- The Marine Corps accepts the enlistment of the first African-American women.
1950-1953 (Korean War)
- Over 50,000 women serve overseas and in the U.S.
- World War II women reservists are involuntarily recalled to active duty.
- Over 500 Army nurses serve in combat zones.
- Navy nurses serve shipboard on Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) ships for the first time.
- (1951) Created to advise on the recruitment of women during the war, the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) was established.
- (1953) Lieutenant Fae M. Adams became the first woman to be commissioned in the regular army as a medical officer.
1958 (Lebanon Crisis)
- Military nurses are assigned to the hospitals which deploy during the crisis to support over 10,000 troops.
- Bertha Peters Billeb becomes the Marine’s first woman promoted to Sergeant Major (E-9).
1965-1975 (Vietnam War)
- (1965) Master Sergeant Josephine Davis becomes the first woman, assigned by the Marine Corps, to attaché duty. She later becomes their first female Marine to serve under hostile fire.
- Throughout the war over 7,000 women, across all branches, serve in Southeast Asia.
- (November 1967) Public Law 90-130 is signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, lifting the two percent ceiling cap on women serving in the military and opening advanced ranks to them.
- (1968) The Air National Guard (ANG) enlists the first woman due to the signing of Public Law 90-130.
- (1969) Women are admitted to the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps (AFROTC).
- (June 11, 1970) Elizabeth P. Hoisington (Women’s Army Corps, Director) and Anna Mae Hays (Army Nurse Corps, Chief) are the first women in the Army promoted to Brigadier General.
- (July 16, 1971) Jeanne M. Holm (Women in the Air Force, Director) was the first woman in the Air Force promoted to Brigadier General. In March of 1973 she was appointed director of the Secretary of the Air Force Personnel Council and was the first woman in the military to be promoted to Major General on June 1, 1973.
- (1971) Marcelite Harris became the first woman aircraft maintenance officer after completing the Air Force’s Aircraft Maintenance Officer’s School.
- (1972) Women in the Army and Navy are admitted into the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).
- (1972) The Naval vessel USS Sanctuary (hospital ship) becomes the first to have a male/female crew.
- (1972) Alene B. Duerk becomes the Navy’s first woman promoted to Rear Admiral.
- (1973) Dianna Pohlman becomes the Navy’s first woman chaplain.
- Dependents of women serving in the military were not eligible for privileges and benefits, nor were these same women authorized for housing. The Supreme Court declared these inequities unconstitutional in 1973.
- (February 22, 1974) Barbara Allen Rainey earns her pilot wings, becoming the first female Naval aviator.
- (1974) Sally D. Murphy becomes the Army’s first woman helicopter pilot.
- (1975) In a reversal of policy, women are given the option to be discharged or remain on active duty when they become pregnant.
- The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, and the Air Force Academy begin admitting women.
- Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), who flew during World War II, are granted veteran status.
- (September) The first 24 women began on board the CGCs Gallatin and Morgenthau for afloat assignments, two officers and 10 enlisted on each.
- All assignments are opened to women by the Coast Guard.
- (May 11) Margaret A. Brewer becomes the Marine’s first woman promoted to Brigadier General.
- (November 1) Mary E. Clarke became the Army’s first woman two-star general, as well as the first woman to command a Federal military installation – Fort McClellan, Alabama.
- (September 16) Patricia Fornes becomes the Air Force’s first woman alter duty aircrew member for Strategic Air Comman (SAC).
- Congress amends the law banning Navy women from serving shipboard after Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, John Joseph “Maximum John” Sirica (presided over Watergate trials), declares it unconstitutional, allowing women to serve on non-combat ships.
- (October 20) The Women’s Army Corps (WAC) is disestablished, integrating its service members into the regular army.
- Hazel Johnson-Brown becomes the Army’s first African-American woman promoted to Brigadier General.
- Beverly Kelley becomes the first female commanding officer afloat (CGC Cape Newagen).
- Lynn Spruill becomes the Navy’s first woman aviator to qualify as a carrier pilot.
- The first women receive embassy guard assignments from the Marine Corps.
- The first women graduate from the academies.
- Roberta Hazard becomes the first woman to command a Naval Training Command (Naval Technical Center at Treasure Island in San Francisco).
- (June 10) A five-hour training mission is performed by the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command’s first all-female crew.
- Colleen Nevius becomes the Navy’s first woman to graduate from Test Pilot School.
- Operation Urgent Fury (Grenada) sees approximately 200 women (Army and Air Force) among the forces deployed.
- (April 7) Francis I. Mossman becomes the first woman (Air Force) reservist to be promoted to Brigadier General.
- Kristine Holderied becomes the Navy’s first woman to graduate as valedictorian from the Naval Academy.
- Vivien Crea becomes the first woman (Coast Guard) to serve as a Military Aide to the President.
- Denise Matthews becomes the Coast Guard’s first woman to graduate as valedictorian from the United States Coast Guard Academy.
- Terrie Ann McLaughlin becomes the Air Force’s first woman to graduate as valedictorian from the United States Air Force Academy.
- Beth E. Hubert becomes the first woman (Navy) jet test pilot.
- Kelly Mogk (Larson) becomes the Coast Guard’s first woman to graduate from the Navy Rescue Swimmer School program.
- Genotra D. Brown became the Army’s first woman to wear the Advanced Airborne School’s black hat.
- Kathryn Sullivan becomes the Navy’s first woman to be selected by NASA as an astronaut.
- The Marine Corps reverse their decision and again allow women to be assigned as embassy guards.
- Operation Just Cause (Panama) sees approximately 770 women among the forces deployed.
- Kristin M. Baker is the first woman selected captain of the Corps of Cadets at West Point, their highest cadet honor.
- Janice Ayers becomes the Navy’s first woman Command Master Chief at sea.
- Simone Vassar becomes the Coast Guard’s first woman appointed as a Flight Officer.
Gulf War (1990-1991)
- Approximately 40,000 women (Army and Air Force) are among the forces deployed.
- (1991) After an overwhelming vote, Congress overturns the legislation banning women from flying in combat missions.
- (1991) Julianne Gallina becomes the Navy’s first woman United States Naval Academy Brigade Commander.
- (July 12, 1991) DoD directed to implement zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment by Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney.
- (1991) Faye Whitehead becomes the Air Force Reserve’s first woman senior enlisted advisor.
Continued in: Women in the Military Part III (1992-2017)