Commander-in-Chief George Washington asks Congress for one contract nurse for every 10 patients and a supervising matron for every 100 patients.
Women civilians serve primarily as laundresses, nurses, cooks and spies. Some serve as water bearers and soldiers, fighting beside their husbands or, like Deborah Samson, disguising themselves as men.
- Women civilians continue to serve primarily as nurses, laundresses and cooks, but some also as color bearers, and a few as warriors.
- Dorothea Lynde Dix is appointed Superintendent of Women Nurses for the Union Army.
- Roughly 6,000 women provide nursing to federal troops during the war.
Beyond being the legendary “conductor” of the Underground Railroad, shepherding enslaved persons to freedom, Harriet Tubman also aided the Union’s military effort in the Civil War. Early in the war, Tubman served as a nurse for Union regiments before moving on to a larger role as spymaster and military scout.
Under the direction of War Secretary Edwin Stanton, Tubman recruited locals throughout conquered areas in the South to pass information along to Union commanders and assist in assault preparations. Her group’s work led to a successful assault on Jacksonville, Florida, and the Combahee River Raid in June 1863.
Decades later, Tubman finally received recognition — to a degree — for her military service during the Civil War, as she had been kept out of official military documents. In 1899, Tubman was granted a pension, officially validating her widely known contributions to the Union cause.
Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, a civilian surgeon serving the Union forces, is captured and held as a Prisoner of War from April to August.
Dr. Walker is awarded the Medal of Honor for her work serving the Union Army during the Civil War.
In 1866, Cathay Williams enlists in U.S. Army using the name William Cathay, and is assigned to the 38th US Infantry. She serves less than two years before she is honorably discharged.
PVT Williams was the first black woman to enlist in the U.S. Army and the only known female Buffalo Soldier.
At the start of the Spanish-American War, Congress grants authority for the Army to hire women nurses under contract. More than 1,500 women serve as nurses from 1898 to 1901.
The Army Nurse Corps is established as a permanent part of the Army Medical Department.
More than 21,000 Army nurses work in military hospitals in the U.S. and abroad.
The Army recruits more than 200 bilingual telephone operators to work switchboards near the front in France. These first American Soldiers of WWI are nicknamed "The Hello Girls." After training, the first operators, under the leadership of Chief Operator Grace Banker, depart for Europe in March 1918. Members of this unit were soon operating telephones in many exchanges of the American Expeditionary Forces in Paris, Chaumont, and seventy-five other French locations and British locations in London, Southampton, and Winchester. The Chief Operator of the Second American Unit of Telephone Operators was Inez Crittenden of California.
In 2019, these women soldiers were recognized for their exceptional service and inducted into the U.S. Army Women's Hall of Fame.
The Army Reorganization Act grants nurses officer rank but without the same privileges and rights as men.
Massachusetts Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers introduces a bill to establish the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps.
- Sixty-six Army nurses stationed in the Philippines are among those captured by the Japanese at the fall of Corregidor and held as Prisoners of War.
- Congress passes the bill creating the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), and authorizes up to 150,000 positions.
- Colonel Oveta Culp Hobby is sworn in as the first director.
- The first enlistees report to the WAAC Training Center at Des Moines, Iowa.
- The Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) is established. The female pilots transport planes from factories to military bases.
- The WAAC’s exceed its initial recruitment goal of 25,000.
- The first WAAC unit overseas reports to Algiers.
- Congress passes a bill to convert the WAAC into the regular Army, and renames it the Women’s Army Corps.
- 1st Lt. Cordelia E. Cook, an Army nurse serving in Italy, is the first woman to receive the Bronze Star.
More than 5,000 women serve in the Southwest Pacific region from 1944 to 1955. The WASPS are disbanded.
- The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, an all-black WAC unit, receives orders for Europe. They are the first and only all-black, all women’s unit to deploy into the European Theater of operations. The 6888th was assigned to Birmingham England, Rouen, France and Paris, France during World War II. Their mission was to clear several years of backlogged mail in the European Theater of Operations. In 2016, the women of the 6888th are inducted into the U.S. Army Women’s Hall of Fame.
- Nurses captured at the fall of Corregidor are liberated by U.S. troops.
- Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower directs legislation to include the Women’s Army Corps in the Regular Army and the Organized Reserve Corps.
- WAC officers arrive in Japan for assignment to the 8000th WAC Battalion.
- Congress passes legislation to provide re-employment rights for members the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps and the Women Army Corps.
The Women's Medical Specialist Corps established.
- WACs with prior service are enlisted in the Regular Army.
- WAC Training Center is established at Camp Lee, VA.
- In 1948, Congress passed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, which entitled women to veteran benefits and granted them permanent, active, and reserve status in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.
WAC, Army of the United States, is terminated. Honorably discharged WACs Army of the United States re-enlist in the WAC Regular Army.
- Women college graduates receive the first direct commissions as second lieutenants in the Organized Reserve Corps.
- Enlistments are extended for WACs, and reserve WAC officers are involuntarily recalled to active duty for the support of the Korean War.
- More than 500 nurses serve in the combat zone.
- First WAC Officer Advanced Course opens at the WAC School at Fort Lee, VA.
- Limited Veterans Administration benefits are available to WAAC personnel with line of duty disabilities.
- Congress passes the Reserve Officers Personnel Act.
WAC permanent training center and home opens at Fort McClellan, AL.
The Women's Army Corps turns 20. Total personnel strength is 9,495. The Director of the Women's Army Corps, COL Mary Louise Milligan Rasmuson (fourth from the left), former Directors of the Women's Army Corps, Chief of Staff of the Army GEN George H. Decker and other representatives visit President John F. Kennedy at the Oval Office on the occasion of the WAC's 20th Anniversary, 15 May 1962.
In 2020, COL Mary Louise Mulligan Rasmuson is inducted into the U.S. Army Women's Hall of Fame.
Weapons familiarization and voluntary firing are removed from WAC training when the Army determines the one pound additional weight of its new rifle was too heavy for a woman to handle.
The first WAC officers are assigned to HQ, US Army, Vietnam. Throughout the war, 9,000 nurses and 800 WACs serve in Vietnam.
Congress passes law that removes promotion restrictions on women and allows WACs to be appointed in the National Guard.
SGM Yzetta Nelson becomes first WAC to achieve the highest enlisted rank, command sergeant major.
- The Women’s Army Corps Foundation is incorporated to raise money to build the WAC Museum at Fort McClellan, AL.
- The first three women graduate from the Army War College.
- Army Nurse Corps 1st Lieutenant Sharon A. Lane dies in Vietnam as a result of enemy fire. She is the only American military woman to die under such circumstances during the Vietnam War.
- Anna Mae Hays, Chief of the Army Nurse Corps, and Elizabeth P. Hoisington, Director of the Women’s Army Corps, are the first women to achieve the rank of brigadier general. In 2018, BG Anna Mae Hays is inducted into the US Army Women’s Hall of Fame.
- Women are allowed entry to male Drill Sergeant Schools and theNCO Academy.
- Women for the first time are allowed to command men, except for combat units.
- The end of the draft and key steps by the Army Chief of Staff advance opportunities for women.
- Helicopter and fixed-wing flight training is approved for WAC officers.
- Enlisted women can go to Parachute Rigger training and jump school.
- The last Army nurses depart Vietnam.
- More than 5,000 nurses serve in Vietnam between 1962 and 1973.
Voluntary weapons training is reinstated for WACs. SGM Mildred Kelly is promoted to Command Sergeant Major, becoming the first black command sergeant major in the WAC.
Weapons training is mandatory for WACs.
President Gerald R. Ford signs ground-breaking legislation allowing women to attend the Service Academies. The United States Military Academy at West Point committed itself to making integration a success. Recognizing the importance of beginning with a substantial number of women, West Point immediately began active recruiting. On July 7, 1976, the first 119 women entered West Point as part of the Class of 1980. Perceived and argued as an issue of simple fairness, the change had broad public support. Four years later, 62 women made history graduating from West Point in the first gender-integrated class.
- Men and women train together for first time in Military Police and Signal Corps.
- Women serve in nuclear security and as crew members at long-range missile and rocket sites.
- The first women are commissioned in the Field Artillery and Air Defense Artillery branches.
The Women's Army Corps is officially disestablished. Men and women attend the same basic training.
BG Mary E. Clarke, who served as the WAC Director since 1975, is promoted to Major General, Active Military Service.
Brigadier General Hazel Johnson-Brown of the Army Nurse Corps becomes the first African American woman to achieve the rank of brigadier general and Chief of the Army Nurse Corps.
Sixty-two women cadets graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, on 28 May 1980. In 2011, the women graduates of the Class of 1980 were inducted into the U.S. Army Women's Hall of Fame. Pictured is the first woman graduate, Cadet Andrea Holland, receiving her diploma from Secretary of Defense Harold Brown.
Women make up 9.1% of the Army.
The Army caps the end-strength for women: 65,000 enlisted and 7,200 officers.
Women and men return to separate basic training. More women enlist. Secretary of Defense increases total women end strength to 70,000 enlisted and 13,000 officers.
More than 100 women take part in Operation Urgent Fury, Grenada, serving in law enforcement, intelligence, logistics, mechanics, and more. Women fly helicopters for first time in armed conflict.
More than 700 women participate in Operation Just Cause, Panama, in 1989. Captain Linda Bray is the first woman to lead U.S. troops in combat. She led the 988th Military Police Company. There, she became the first woman to command American soldiers in battle, a trailblazing role that launched a reflection about women in the military.
In 1989, the U.S. Military Academy named its first woman, Cadet Kristin Baker, as the Brigade Commander, U.S. Corps of Cadets.
Some 26,000 women deploy to the Persion Gulf for Operation Desert Shield/Storm.
Women are assigned to Forward Support Units.
Two Army women are captured by Iraqis and held as prisoners of war.
Secretary of Defense Les Aspin announces combat aviation jobs to open to women.
Army names its first woman Drill Sergeant of the Year, Staff Sgt. Jill Henderson of Fort McClellan, AL.
Men and women again are to go through basic training together, first at Fort Leonard Wood, MO.
In 1994, Defense Secretary Les Aspin announced the new policy regarding women in combat rescinding the 1988 “risk rule.” It was replaced with a less restrictive ground combat policy, which resulted in 80 percent of all military positions being open to men and women.
Women serve in the Military Intelligence, Quartermaster Corps, Signal, Transportation Company, and other jobs in the Bosnian Operation. 2nd Lieutenant Rebecca Marier is West Point's first woman valedictorian.
Sergeant Heather Lynn Johnson becomes the first woman sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery
Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy becomes the first woman in the U.S. Army to achieve the rank of three-star general. She served as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence.
Women participate in the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, Operation Joint Guardian.
Brigadier General Coral Wong Pietsch becomes the first Asian-American woman in the U.S. Army to attain the rank of one-star general. Coral Wong Pietsch is a United States Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
CSM Michele Jones is the first woman to become top enlisted advisor of the Army Reserve.
Private First Class Lori Ann Piestewa, U.S. Army 507th Maintenance Company, 5/52 ADA BN, 11th ADA Brigade is killed during the Iraq War on 23 March 2003. A member of the Quartermaster Corps, she died in the same Iraqi attack in which fellow soldiers Specialist Shoshana Johnson and Specialist Jessica Lynch were injured. A member of the Hopi tribe, Piestewa was the first Native American woman in history to die in combat while serving in the U.S. military and the first woman in the U.S. military killed in the Iraq War. Arizona's Piestewa Peak is named in her honor. She was posthumously promoted to Specialist.
Women make up 15.2 percent of the Army, up from 9.8 percent 20 years earlier.
SGT Leigh Ann Hester is the first woman to be awarded the Silver Star since World War II and the first ever to be awarded the Silver Star for direct combat action.
SPC. Monica Brown is the first woman in Afghanistan and the second woman since World War II to be awarded the Silver Star.
Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody is the first woman four-star general in military history and the first woman to lead a major Army command.
Sergeant Sherri Gallegher is first woman to win Best Warrior Soldier of the Year.
- A congressionally directed commission recommends allowing women to serve in combat arms.
- LTG Patricia Horoho is first woman and first nurse to lead the U.S. Army Medical Command.
- BG Gwen Bingham is the first woman to serve as quartermaster general and the first African-American woman Quartermaster Corps general.
- Brig. Gen. Margaret W. Burcham is the first woman to be promoted to general officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
- The Army opens six combat-related military occupation specialties to women.
- 101st Airborne Division gets first woman chaplain in a combat arms unit.
- Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody, the first woman to wear four stars, retires.
- Secretary of Defense rescinds direct ground combat exclusion rule; services to plan to integrate fully by January 2016.
- Four women to become Army’s first women Abrams tank maintainers.
- First women soldiers graduate artillery mechanic course.
- Brig. Gen. Flora D. Darpino is promoted to three stars, and becomes the Army’s 39th Judge Advocate General. She is the first woman in the JAG 236 year history to serve as the top lawyer.
- Army announces it will open 33,000 positions to women in spring.
- Army moves toward opening Ranger School to women; chooses women advisors.
- Army announces it is allocating 160 seats for women in the two-week Army National Guard Training and Assessment Course.
- More women had volunteered for Ranger School.
- CPT Marjana Bidwell is first female commander of Regimental Headquarters Company of 3d United States Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard).
- The first women graduate Ranger School: CPT Kristen Griest, 1LT Shaye Haver, MAJ Lisa Jaster. In 2018, these first women Ranger graduates are inducted into the US Army Women’s Hall of Fame.
- In December, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announces that beginning in January, 2016, the Pentagon will lift all gender-based restrictions on jobs.
- In April, the Army names the first 22 women to become officers in infantry and armor fields.
- BG Joane Mathews is first woman general officer in Wisconsin Army National Guard.
- Ranger School graduate CPT Kristen Griest is Army’s first woman infantry officer; she is assigned to Fort Benning.
- COL Cindy Jebb is first woman selected to serve as West Point Dean of the Academic Board; she is promoted to BG.
- Congress passes and President Obama signs bill allowing female WWII WASPs to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
- PFC Katherine Beatty is Army’s first female cannoneer.
In October 2018, Forces Command, the Army’s largest command has a new leader. LTG Laura J. Richardson was assigned as the acting Commander of FORSCOM.
On 25 May 2019, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point’s class of 2019 is set to graduate 34 African-American women, the highest number in the prestigious academy’s history.
The class will also include the largest number of hispanic female graduates ever. Nineteen hispanic female cadets are projected to graduate.
West Point is also set to graduate its 5,000th female cadet since 1980, when the first class of women graduated from the academy.
In 2020, 181,000 women proudly serve in the US Army.