March marks National Women’s Month in the US as well as International Women’s Day on March 8th.
Women have actively been involved with the U.S. Armed Forces as far back as the Civil War as nurses, laundering and mending clothing, cooks, or “comfort women.” Some women, such as Deborah Sampson, Belle Royd, Mary Owens, and Sarah Collins served in secret in the armed forces until their secret was revealed due to injuries. Later on, they serviced in other capacities as clerical or support role, linguists, weather forecasters, and other non-combat jobs. Even though women worked in these capacities, they were expected to walk away from their military contributions once wars were over.
It wasn’t until 1948 with the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act that women began taking steps to become equal members in the U.S. Armed Forces and making woman permanently able to serve. However, many military positions were still not opened to women and limited women’s service to 2% of any military branches.
Armed Forces women still met with many obstacles such as sexual harassment, were viewed as purposefully trying to undermine the armed forces, or simply were resented by their male peers. Military women were also involuntary discharged if they became pregnant and their option to serve as officers were severally limited and above all they were not allowed to command men or serve in combat. It wasn’t until 1980 that military women were considered veterans, which allowed them to obtain military benefits. Even then it wasn’t until 2013 when women were allowed to serve in direct combat roles. In 2019, women were finally equally able to be drafted.
Although women have accomplished much, they still face issues such as sexual assault, PTSD from such experiences, and gender discrimination. Most recently military women finally obtain body armor finally designed for women. But military women continue to push forward and gain ground. We need to continue to support and respect our military women as they continue to break barriers.