Women in warfare and the military (1900–1945)

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This timeline of women in warfare and the military (1900–1945) deals with the role of women in the military around the world from 1900 through 1945. By the end of the 19th century, women in some countries were starting to serve in limited roles in various branches of the military. The two major events in this time period were World War I and World War II. Please see Women in World War I and Women in World War II for more information.

Timeline of women in warfare from 1900 until 1945 worldwide[edit]



World War I[edit]

For more details on this topic, see Women in the First World War.
  • Australia: More than 3,000 Australian civilian nurses volunteer for active service.[7]
  • Britain: The British form the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps in 1917; the Corps is renamed the Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps in 1918. Members of this corps serve as clerical staff, cooks and medical personnel. It is disbanded in September 1921. Also in 1917, the British form the Women's Royal Naval Service as a branch of the Royal Navy. Members of this corps serve as clerks, cooks, electricians and air mechanics. The British disband the unit in 1919.
  • Canada: Over 2,800 women serve in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps during the war. Women also receive training in small arms, first aid and vehicle maintenance in anticipation of being used as home guards.[8]
  • New Zealand: Nurses in the New Zealand Army Nursing Service serve on hospital ships and in hospitals at the front in France.[9]
  • Romania: During the 1916 battle in the Jiu Valley, Ecaterina Teodoroiu transfers from the Romanian Army's all-female nurse corps to the Reconnaissance Corps. She is taken prisoner while serving as a scout, but escapes after killing several German soldiers. In November she is wounded and hospitalized, but returns to the front; she is decorated, promoted to Sublocotenent (second lieutenant) and given the command of a 25-man platoon. For her valor she is awarded the Military Virtue Medal, First Class. On September 3, 1917 (August 22 Old Style) she is killed in the Battle of Mărăşeşti (in Vrancea County) after being hit in the chest by German machine-gun fire. According to some accounts, her last words before dying were "Forward, men, I'm still with you!"
  • Russia: Russia fields 15 formations of female battalions for several months in 1917; two (the 1st Russian Women's Battalion of Death and the Perm Battalion) are deployed to the front. By the end of the year, all battalions are dissolved.[10]
  • United States: During America's involvement from 1917–1918, 21,480 U.S. Army nurses (military nurses are all women) serve in military hospitals in the United States and overseas. Eighteen African-American Army nurses serve at home, caring for German prisoners of war and African-American soldiers. The first female members of the military killed in the line of duty are Edith Ayres and Helen Wood, who die on May 20, 1917 at Base Hospital #12 aboard the USS Mongolia en route to France. The U.S. Army recruits and trains 233 female bilingual telephone operators to work at switchboards near the front in France, and sends 50 skilled stenographers to France to work with the Quartermaster Corps. On 19 March 1917, the U.S. Navy authorizes the enlistment of women. Designated as "Yeoman (F)," they unofficially become known as "Yeomanettes.” The U.S. Navy enlists 11,880 women as Yeomen (F), to serve in shore billets and release sailors for sea duty. On 21 March 1917, YNC Loretta Perfectus Walsh becomes the first female Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy. More than 1,476 U.S. Navy nurses serve in military hospitals. The U.S. Marine Corps enlists 305 female Marine Reservists (F) to "free men to fight" by filling positions (such as clerks and telephone operators) on the home front. In 1918, Pvt. Opha Mae Johnson becomes the first woman to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. More than 400 U.S. military nurses die in the line of duty during World War I, the vast majority from the pandemic Spanish Flu. In 1918, twin sisters Genevieve and Lucille Baker of the Naval Coastal Defense Reserve become the first uniformed women to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard. At the time of the armistice on November 11, 1918 there are 11,275 Yeomanettes in naval service, with some 300 female Marines in the Marine Corps. The women, "no longer needed", are asked to resign. The final pass in review down Pennsylvania Avenue is in July.[1][5][11][12][13] The U.S. Naval Reserve Act of 1916 permits the enlistment of qualified "persons" for service. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels asks, "Is there any law that says a Yeoman must be a man?" and is told there is not.[5]


  • 1920: During the Turkish War of Independence, Kara Fatma and her group conducts operations against British, Armenian, French, Italian and Greek soldiers, especially targeting those who rape young girls.[citation needed] Şerife Bacı participated in transport of ammunition needed in the Greco-Turkish War. A provision of the Army Reorganization Act grants U.S. military nurses the status of officers, with "relative rank" from second lieutenant to major (but not full rights and privileges). U.S. Nurses (all women) serve aboard the first U.S. ship built as a floating hospital, the USS Relief (AH-1).[5]
  • 1924: Lottorna, the Swedish Women's Voluntary Defence Service, is founded.


See Women in World War II for information specific to World War II

  • 1936: During the Spanish Civil War, women militia members known as milicianas fight on the front lines with men (primarily on the Republican side).
  • 1937: During the Dersim uprising, Sabiha Gökçen (the first female aviator in Turkey and the first female combat pilot in the world) carries out sorties in operations against the guerrillas.
  • 1938: The (U.S.) Naval Reserve Act permits the enlistment of qualified women as nurses.[5]
  • 1939: The Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS) of Britain, disbanded after World War One, is re-founded.



See Women in World War II for information specific to World War II

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Highlights in the History of Military Women". Women In Military Service For America Memorial. Archived from the original on June 22, 2013. Retrieved June 22, 2013. 
  2. ^ O'Lynn, Chad E.; Tranbarger, Russell E., eds. (2006). Men in Nursing: History, Challenges, and Opportunities. New York: Springer Publishing. p. 88. ISBN 9780826103499. Retrieved June 22, 2013. 
  3. ^ Salmonson, Jessica Amanda (1991). The Encyclopedia of Amazons. Paragon House. p. 139. 
  4. ^ D'Amico, Francine; Weinstein, Laurie Lee, eds. (1999). Gender Camouflage: Women and the U.S. Military. New York: NYU Press. p. 23. ISBN 9780814719077. Retrieved June 22, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Navy Personnel Command, Timeline of Women in the US Navy, http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/organization/bupers/WomensPolicy/Pages/HistoryFirsts.aspx
  6. ^ Arrizón, Alicia (1998). Soldaderas and the Staging of the Mexican Revolution 42. MIT Press. pp. 90–112. 
  7. ^ Australian War Memorial 2012 Exhibition
  8. ^ "CBC News in Depth: Canada's Military". CBC News. May 30, 2006. Retrieved 2011-03-11. 
  9. ^ A Companion to Women's Military History, edited by Barton Hacker, Margaret Vining, http://books.google.com/books?id=UoHbxKfyTcUC&printsec=frontcover&dq=women+in+military&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ej21UY2KCs7_qAH-v4GICQ&ved=0CEwQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=women%20in%20military&f=false, p. 201
  10. ^ Richard Stites The Women's Liberation Movement in Russia: Feminism, Nihilism, and Bolshevism 1860-1930, published 1978 by Princeton University Press, ISBN 0691052549, http://books.google.com/books?id=qy679HV7AmkC&dq=richard+stites+women's+liberation+russia&source=gbs_navlinks_s, p. 299.
  11. ^ "Resources—Historical Frequently Asked Questions". Women In Military Service For America Memorial. Archived from the original on June 22, 2013. Retrieved June 22, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Women's History Chronology". United States Coast Guard. Retrieved June 22, 2013. 
  13. ^ "History of the Women Marines". Women Marines Association. Retrieved June 22, 2013. 
  14. ^ BBC - WW2 People's War - Timeline

External links[edit]