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Not standard issue for the some 400,000 women who served during WWII, a unique artifact–the Parachute Riggers Kit–was reserved for a select group of Women Marines, Navy WAVES, Coast Guard SPARs and members of the Women’s Army Corps who trained for this one-of-a-kind job during the war.
Though parachutes would never replace the customary silk, satin and lace of traditional wedding dresses, at least one other overseas service bride wore a dress of this silk.
This simple pair of brown leather boots tells a special story of women’s military history—the boots were an innovative clothing solution against the malaria-carrying mosquito in the Belgian Congo at a time when Army women’s uniform issue included skirts, but no slacks or trousers.
These collections from the Women’s Memorial Foundation Collection focus on women’s service during the Korean War Era (1950-1953) when the services turned once again to American women to meet personnel needs, asking them to leave their homes, jobs and families to serve their country.
These collections from the Women’s Memorial Foundation Collection reflect the diversity and impact of the contributions of the almost 400,000 women who served at home and overseas during World War II.
Barbie® has served as a leader in career paths for young women and has held at least 80 jobs since her debut in 1959. Thirty years later, she joined the Army!
This bell, which tolled during the Civil War above the convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mount Carmel near New Orleans, LA, has its own tale of the heroism of women who nursed for the military.
Read the letter of the Navy lieutenant who commanded a platoon of Navy women in the only women’s company in the funeral procession of President John F. Kennedy.
Dramatic images in our photograph collection caught our attention as the topic of individual ownership of gas masks engaged public conversation, and homeland security and personal safety became a national priority.
This photo essay offers a brief glimpse of the largest deployment of military women in the history of the United States.
April 6, 1917. The United States formally entered the Great War in Europe, which had engulfed the continent since 1914. Within days of America entering the war, the US military began mobilizing and civilians were called to serve. Emma Elizabeth Weaver, almost 40 years old, volunteered in February 1918 for overseas duty and, served at Base Hospital 20 in France and Base Hospital Coblenz with the Army of Occupation in Germany. During her year of service overseas, she traveled to 109 cities and towns in Great Britain, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Germany; and she kept a journal of her service.
Women were among the first American military members to deploy in the Global War on Terror. Unlike previous wars when snail mail and rare phone calls were used to keep in touch, in today’s war the Internet, e-mail and accessible telephone service have improved the speed and frequency of communication. Read excerpts from an e-mail dairy kept by one servicewoman who spent a year in Baghdad, Iraq.
During the Spanish-American War, more than 1,500 female nurses served under contract to the Army. Twenty-one of them died in the line of duty and their service led to the permanent establishment of the Army Nurse Corps in 1901.
Select a button below to read a brief history of women serving in America’s defense. Contact the Women’s Memorial Foundation at 800-222-2294/703-5331-1155 for further information and resources.
Explore the history of African-American women who volunteered for military service during the Vietnam War.
Puerto Rican women’s service to our country dates back to World War I. Explore the rich history of Puerto Rico’s military women. The long history of service of Puerto Rican servicewomen is reflected in the Women’s Memorial Foundation Register and archives, from which many of the following vignettes are taken. If you are a Puerto Rican servicewoman or woman veteran or know one who is serving or who has served in the US Armed Forces, please contact the Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org, so that we can continue to enrich this history of Puerto Rican women’s service and sacrifice in defense of our nation.
Although Puerto Rican women undoubtedly began working as civilian employees of the US Armed Forces as early as 1898–the beginning of the Spanish-American War–the stories of their contributions as hospital aides, nurses, office workers and day laborers have been lost to history. The first documented evidence of Puerto Rican women’s service to our country dates back to World War I, a time when Puerto Rico was still a territory of the United States and women could not vote. When the war began in 1917, the US Army Medical Corps believed that it would not need the services of women doctors. By 1918, however, the Army realized that they could not find enough male physicians specializing in anesthesia to work in military operating rooms. Because the specialty did not pay well, most physician anesthetists were women. The Army realized that if it wanted to fill these positions, it would have to accept the services of women, and reluctantly began hiring women physicians as civilian contract employees. Dr. Dolores Pinero was one of those whom the Army placed under contract.
In 1976, women entered US military academies for the first time. Learn how the academies became co-educational institutions and some of the early obstacles women faced.
Robert Shurtliff enlisted in the Continental Army in 1782 and served honorably until a secret was discovered–this soldier was actually a woman masquerading in men’s clothing. Read this fascinating story about the first woman known to have served as an American soldier.
A 38-year-old spinster was so moved by the stories of the Civil War wounded that she threw herself into war-relief efforts and even ventured onto the battlefields to nurse fallen soldiers. Learn how Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross and became an historical icon.
Civil War contract surgeon Mary E. Walker is the only woman in US history to have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Read about the extraordinary life and service of this woman–a doctor, POW and the recipient of our nation’s highest award.
Among the first group of women ever to serve in the Navy as World War I Yeomen (F) was a young woman named Joy Bright Hancock. By the time she retired from active duty in June 1953, CAPT Hancock was a principal voice for women’s equality in the military. Read about this great “Lady in the Navy.”
The Army was seeking a woman who was business savvy, dignified and charismatic; and one who would not only serve as the first director of the WAAC/WAC, but who could inspire young women to join the service in WWII. Learn how COL Oveta Culp Hobby fit the bill.
Nearly a decade apart, two Coast Guard women take command and make history. Read about the experimental beginnings of Coast Guard women at sea and how far they came in just 10 years.
During the invasion of Panama in 1989, Army CPT Linda Bray became the first woman to lead US troops in battle. Learn about her command of the 988th Military Police Company out of Ft. Benning, GA, and its implications on future policy.
Memories—we all have them. But, are they worth preserving? Of course they are. Indeed, most of us have been capturing memories on film since we bought our first camera. Now, a trend is beginning to sweep the nation, taking the preservation of memories to another level—capturing memories with words that are recorded, written or both. Regardless of what you call it, using words to preserve memories gives us something that the photograph never can—it gives us details; and retired Air Force Reserve Col. Robin Grantham is one of dozens who volunteer to help capture and preserve the stories of America’s female patriots.
1,074 women. That’s the number of the first large group of women pilots—Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP)—officially recognized as having flown in service of the United States military.
Dorothy-Mae (Hinson) Brandt enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps, at age 16, during World War II, one of and estimated 100,000 underage veterans who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
Earning the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor insignia is a rite of passage for every Marine, and Joyce (Hadley) Malone and Patricia D. Malone are proud to be among “The Few, The Proud” who have earned the privilege of wearing the US Marine Corps uniform.
n July 1976, 119 young women stood at the gates to the US Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, NY, to embark on a course that would change their lives, the academy and the Army, forever. Learn about the experiences of one of the young woman in the first co-educational class at West Point who found herself face to face with an institution, and its people, entrenched in nearly 175 years of an all-male tradition in the “Long Gray Line.”
In 1970, just two years after earning a master’s degree in physical therapy (PT), Aida Nancy Sanchez was sent to Vietnam. Then a major in the Army Medical Specialist Corps, she spent a year at the 95th Evacuation Hospital, Da Nang, Vietnam, where she established the first PT clinic. Through excerpts from her oral history, learn more about the service of now-retired LTC Sanchez, as well as how oral history donations are now being digitized at the Foundation.
In 1985, the National Society of The Colonial Dames of America had the collective vision and foresight to begin documenting their own members’ history of service in and with the US Armed Forces. Accepted by the Women’s Memorial Foundation in October 1994, the collection, including photographs, military documents and newspaper clippings, was digitized, renovated and restored in 2005. Learn more about this exciting collection and read excerpts from some of the oral history interviews.
Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), 1942-43 Women’s Army Corps (WAC), 1943-48 US Air Force Reserve, 1948-51
British Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), World War II
Staff Sergeant US Air Force, 1949-52
US Army Nurse Corps, 1978-82 and 1985-98 US Army Nurse Corps Reserve, 1983-85 and 1998-2000
Senior Airman US Air Force, 1991-95