Women's History Month

March 26, 2018

In March, which is Women's History Month, we want to acknowledge a few of the many women who have served this nation since the beginning.

In 1782 Deborah Sampson disguised herself as a man in order to serve in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Joining as Robert Shurtleff, she served for over a year and a half leading expeditions and scouting missions, as well as a raid on a Tory home resulting in the capture of 15 men. Sampson was only discovered after she became ill during an epidemic and lost consciousness in a hospital.

In 1865 Dr. Mary Walker becomes the only women to receive the Medal of Honor (and one of eight civilians), for her extraordinary heroism during the Civil War where she served as a Contract Surgeon for the Union Forces, and eventually became the assistant Surgeon for the Ohio 52nd Infantry. She was captured at a P.O.W. and exchanged in a prisoner exchange with a Confederate Soldier in 1864.

An undated photo from the personal collection of Alice Virginia Benzie, a Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service -- WAVES -- sailor stationed at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., in the 1940s, shows WAVES standing in formation outside the hangars. By the time recruiting ended in 1945, the WAVES boasted a force of 86,000 enlisted and more than 8,000 female officers -- around 2.5 percent of the Navy's total strength at the time.

One of those early Service Women was Grace Hopper, sometimes called "Amazing Grace." Attending Vassar and Yale, she earned her PhD in mathematics from Yale. She joined the Naval Reserves in 1943 and requested transfer to Active Duty when the war ended, but she was denied due to her age. She worked under a Naval Research contract for many years and retired from the Reserves as a Captain (O-6) in 1966. She was recalled to Active Duty in 1967 and in 1983 she was promoted to Commodore. She was involuntarily retired from the Navy on August 14, 1986. She has come to be known as the "Mother of Computing" from her lifetime of development and innovation, including the creation of the first computer programing language.

In 2008, Army Gen. Ann Dunwoody became the first woman to become a four-star general, after a career of firsts. Joining 1975, she was part of the integration of women into the Army. She attended jumpmaster school and would later become the first female battalion commander for the 82nd Airborne.

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