From the NFRW Armed Services Committee
It took years to make the military fully accessible to women. Legislation formally allowing women into the military was passed in 1948 (even though tens of thousands served in both world wars, and a number served in the Civil War as nurses, spies, and even soldiers disguised as men.
Today’s military is much more integrated along gender lines than at any time in the past. Women are no longer excluded from any type of combat mission. They are pilots, infantry and armor officers, vehicle drivers, mechanics, and nurses. Percentages of women service members have roughly doubled in the last generation for the various services, but averaged across the four major Department of Defense services, women represent only one of every six Americans in uniform, ranging from about 8 percent in the Marine Corps to 19 percent in the Air Force. While the U.S. military has never had a higher fraction of women, they remain just 16 percent of the total force.
Women in senior leadership roles are a much lower percentage. Only six women have reached four-star rank out of roughly 100 4-star military personnel. General Ann Dunwoody of the U.S. Army became the first in 2008, the first woman to serve as a four-star general in both the Army and the U.S. armed forces. Other notable women “warriors” are:
Grace Hopper, who became the third programmer of the world's first large-scale computer called the Mark I. Her importance in U.S. naval history is apparent with a destroyer named after her (USS Hopper, DDG-70) and the Cray XE6 "Hopper" supercomputer. As founder of the COBOL programming language, a precursor to many of the software code approaches of today, her work is legendary among computer scientists and mathematicians. She coined the term “bug” for computer issues. In 1983, a bill was introduced to promote her to the rank of Commodore. The bill was approved by the House, and at the age of 76, she was promoted to Commodore by special Presidential appointment. Her rank was elevated to rear admiral in November 1985, making her one of few women admirals in the history of the United States Navy.
Born a slave near Jefferson City, Missouri, Cathay Williams was the first known African American woman to serve in the United States Army—enlisting under the name "William Cathay" to hide the fact she was a woman. Documents show Williams served alongside the men in her unit—without being recognized as a woman—until she contracted smallpox and became ill. The disease caused her to be in and out of military hospitals until it was discovered she was female and immediately discharged
To all our women veterans, “Thank you for your service.”