In 1981, the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 97-28 which authorized and requested the President proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week.” For the next five years, Congress continued to pass joint resolutions designation a week in March. After being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project in 1987, Congress passed Public Law 100-9 which designated the whole month of March 1987 as “Women’s History Month.” Over the next seven years, Congress passed resolutions for the President to make an annual proclamation for the month of March. In 1995, the President started to issue a series of annual proclamations designating March as Women’s History Month to celebrate the contributions women have made to the United States and recognize the specific achievements women have made over the course of American history in a variety of fields.
Women continue to make history to this very day. For example, the United States voted for its first-ever female Vice President in the 2020 General Election in Kamala Harris and, recently, female recruits arrived at MCRD San Diego to make up the Marine Corps’ first coed company in the base’s 100-year history for boot camp. For the purpose of this post, we’ll focus on the contributions of our nation’s Women Servicemembers and Veterans.
According to the VA’s Women Veterans Make History page, women who served did not formally fall under a military command until the early 20th century. Before then, women served in various capacities starting as early as the Revolutionary War. It’s estimated that more than 400 women fought in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War.
As the nation entered the 20th century, the number of Servicewomen increased. During World War I, approximately 35,000 women served as nurses and support staff. In World War II, that number increased to about 140,000 women who took on critical billets in military intelligence, cryptography, and parachute rigging. During WWII, 1943 specifically, the U.S. Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was formed.
It wasn’t until 1948 when Congress passed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act that Servicewomen were granted permanent status in the military thereby entitling them to benefits when they left the ranks to become Veterans.
During the Vietnam War, approximately 7,000 women served in Southeast Asia. In 1976, women were admitted to America’s service academies at West Point (U.S. Military Academy), Annapolis (U.S. Naval Academy), and Colorado Springs (Air Force Academy). In the early 1990s, more than 40,000 women deployed in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM.
More recently, since the start of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM following 9/11, over 700,000 women have served in OEF and 2003’s Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF).
The U.S. Armed Forces make efforts to recognize the contributions of women to our nation’s defense. Below are their respective pages commemorating the service of women in the military.
- National Museum of the United States Air Force: Women’s History
- U.S. Army: Women in the Army
- Naval History & Heritage Command: Women in the U.S. Navy
When Servicemembers finish their service, they become Women Veterans. The VA has made the health of Women Vets a priority and the following is listing of resources.
- Center for Women Veterans (CMV)
- Experiencing War: Women of Four Wars – Stories from the Veterans History Project
- Women Veterans Health Care
Over the course of the month, the SITREP will highlight a resource for Women Veterans. You can also follow the SITREP socials for more content as well as our Women Veterans resource page.