As a woman who served in the Army, when I was asked to write this blog, I realized that I knew very little about women’s history in the military. As a nation, we hear about influential men who have served all the time. There is Pat Tillman and the impressive and honorable fact that he gave up an NFL contract to join the Special Forces. There is John McCain, and the fact that he is a true American hero, who spent years of his life as a prisoner of war. While I am grateful for what these men did and what so many men have done, I am a strong woman, who is curious about influential women who were in the military and the strength it took them to be successful in a world dominated by men.
America’s Army came about in 1775 however, women were not officially granted entry into the military until June 12, 1948, when the Women’s Armed Service Integration Act was passed. Before this act was passed, women could only be nurses or do administrative duties. It seems absurd to me that women have only been allowed official or equal entry into the military in the last 63 years. However, official entry did not stop some well known women from joining men and doing their part, official or not.
Louisa May Alcott: Best known for writing Little Women, was much more than an author. During the Civil war, the Alcott’s home was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Alcott, who was passionately against slavery wanted to join the military and fight for freedom, but because she was a woman, the only option she had was to be a nurse, and so she did. It is said that Alcott and her nursing supervisor, Hannah Ropes helped to redefine hospital care.
Julia Child: A famous chef who finished each meal with a Bon Appétit! was much more than a woman who entertained through cooking. Child had a desire to serve her country and she did. Child has modestly said that she was just a file clerk, but in all actuality, she was a spy for the American government. She was selected for this position because she studied at a prestigious school and was intelligent, hard working and had a keen attention to detail. Child had a high security clearance and is known to have had some part in the invasion of the Malaysian peninsula and played a part in the sabotage under the South East Asia Command. She was more than an author and TV persona; Child was a strong and influential woman who was a part of our military.
There are so many more women who got their start in the military and are now living or have lived incredibly successful lives. There are congresswomen, journalists, CEOs and so much more. I got my start in the military as a heavy wheeled vehicle operator. I learned independence and found strength within myself to push through any obstacle that life throws at me. I have lived on three of the seven continents thanks to the Army and it is my hope now to take my experiences and make my own little piece of history.
I will say that joining the military is not the easiest career path that anyone can take, especially for women. Although there are laws and policies to protect women and grant them the same opportunities that men have, it is a world dominated by men and there will probably always be debates about whether women should ever have been allowed entry. But here are the facts: we can, I did and so can you.
“Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.” – Unknown