Women in the military in the Americas
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The first participation of a woman in combat occurred in 1823. Maria Quitéria de Jesus fought for the maintenance of the independence of Brazil, and is considered the first woman to enlist in a military unit. However, it was not until 1943, during World War II, that women officially entered the Brazilian Army. They included 73 nurses, 67 of them registered nurses and six air transport specialists. They served in four different hospitals in the US Army. All volunteered for the mission and were the first women to join the active service of the Brazilian armed forces. After the war, as well as the rest of the FEB, the nurses, most have been awarded, they won the official patent and licensed the active military service.
In 1992, the School of Army Administration (Salvador - BA) enrolled the first group of 49 women, by conducting tender. And in 1996, Maria Quitéria de Jesus, the Paladina of Independence, was recognized in the army ranks, as Patron of Table Complementary Brazilian Army officers. The Army established the Military Female Volunteer for Medical, Dental, Pharmaceutical, Veterinary and top-level Nurses (MFDV) in 1996. At that time, they entered the first class of 290 female volunteers to provide military service in healthcare. This merger took place in all twelve military regions of the country.
In 1997 the Military Institute of Engineering—IME (Rio de Janeiro—RJ) enrolled the first group of 10 women students to be included in Table Military Engineers (QEM). In the same year the School of the Army Health—Essex (Rio de Janeiro RJ) enrolled and graduated the first group of medical officers, dentists, pharmaceutical, veterinary and top-level nurses in the framework of the Army Health.
In 1998, the Army established the Stage Technical Service for higher education professionals than healthcare. At that time, he entered the first class of 519 women lawyers, administrators of businesses, accountants, teachers, computer analysts, engineers, architects, journalists, and other areas of human and exact sciences, serving the needs of Official Temporary Technical (OTT) of Institution. In 2001 the Army Health School allowed the enrollment of women to participate in the public tender for the filling of vacancies in the Health Sergeant Course, which started to operate in 2002.
During the First World War, over 2,300 women served overseas in the Canadian Army Medical Corps. Canadian women were also organized into possible uniformed home guard units, undertaking military training in paramilitary groups. During the Second World War, 5,000 women of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps again served overseas, however they were not permitted to serve on combat warships or in combat teams. The Canadian Army Women's Corps was created during the Second World War, as was the Royal Canadian Air Force (Women's Division). As well, 45,000 women served as support staff in every theatre of the conflict, driving heavy equipment, rigging parachutes, and performing clerical work, telephone operation, laundry duties and cooking. Some 5,000 women performed similar occupations during Canada’s part in the Korean War of 1950–1953.
In 1965 the Canadian government decided to allow a maximum of 1,500 women to serve directly in all three branches of its armed forces, and the former "women's services" were disbanded. In 1970 the government created a set of rules for the armed forces designed to encourage equal opportunities. These included the standardization of enlistment criteria, equal pay and pensions, and allowing women to enroll in all aspects of the Canadian armed forces and making it possible for women to reach any rank. In 1974 the first woman, Major Wendy Clay, earned her pilot's wings in the newly integrated Canadian Forces, and four years later the first woman qualified for the Canadian skydiving demonstration team, the Skyhawks.
Between 1979 and 1985 the role of women expanded further, with military colleges allowing women to enroll. 1981 saw the first female navigator and helicopter pilot, and in 1982 laws were passed ending all discrimination in employment, and combat related roles in the Canadian armed forces were opened for women, with no restrictions in place, with the exception of the submarine service. In 1986 further laws were created to the same effect. The following years saw Canada’s first female infantry soldier, first female gunner, and a female Brigadier-General.
In 1990 the Ministers Advisory Board on Women in the Canadian Forces was created, and in 1994 Wendy Clay was promoted to Major-General. In 2000 Major Micky Colton became the first female to log 5,000 flying hours in a C-130 Hercules. Women were permitted to serve on board Canadian submarines in 2002 with the acquisition of the Victoria-class submarine. Master Seaman Colleen Beattie became the first female submariner in 2003.
Canadian women have also become clearance divers, and commanded large infantry units and Canadian warships.
One of the first American woman soldiers was Deborah Sampson of Massachusetts. She enlisted as a Continental Army soldier under the name of "Robert Shurtliff". She served for three years in the Revolutionary War and was wounded twice; she cut a musket ball out of her own thigh so no doctor would find out she was a woman. Finally, at the end of the hostilities her secret was discovered—even so, George Washington gave her an honorable discharge. She later lectured on her experiences and became a champion of women's rights. Another female soldier in the Revolutionary War was Anna Maria Lane of Virginia, who enlisted with her husband in 1776 and fought in several battles, including the Battle of Germantown. 
During the American Civil War, about 250 women have been found to have enlisted, counting both sides, and specialists believe that the total is higher. It was not generally a crime to for a woman to enlist, but it was considered improper and women only signed up claiming to be men. For example, Sarah Rosetta Wakeman enlisted under the alias of Private Lyons Wakeman. She served in the 153rd Regiment, New York State Volunteers. Her complete letters describing her experiences as a female soldier in the Union Army are reproduced in the book, An Uncommon Soldier: The Civil War Letters of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, alias Pvt. Lyons Wakeman, 153rd Regiment, New York State Volunteers, 1862–1864.
A letter written by Annie Oakley to President William McKinley on April 5, 1898 may represent the earliest documentary proof of a political move towards recognizing a woman's right to serve in the United States military. Annie Oakley, sharpshooter and star in the Buffalo Bill Show, wrote a letter to President William McKinley on April 5, 1898 "offering the government the services of a company of 50 'lady sharpshooters' who would provide their own arms and ammunition should war break out with Spain." Oakley's offer was not accepted for the Spanish–American War.
In World War I, the first American women enlisted into the regular armed forces were 13,000 women admitted into active duty in the Navy and Marines and a much smaller number admitted into the Coast Guard. The Yeoman (F) recruits and women Marines primarily served in clerical positions. They received the same benefits and responsibilities as men, including identical pay (US$28.75 per month), and were treated as veterans after the war. These women were quickly demobilized when hostilities ceased, and aside from the Nurse Corps the soldiery became once again exclusively male.
The Woman's Army Auxiliary Corps was established in the United States in 1942. However, political pressures stalled attempts to create more roles for women in the American Armed Forces. Women saw combat during World War II, first as nurses in the Pearl Harbor attacks on December 7, 1941. The Woman's Naval Reserve and Marine Corps Women’s Reserve were also created during this conflict. In July 1943 a bill was signed removing 'auxiliary' from the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, making it an official part of the regular army. In 1944 WACs arrived in the Pacific and landed in Normandy on D-Day. During the war, 67 Army nurses and 16 Navy nurses were captured and spent three years as Japanese prisoners of war. There were 350,000 American women who served during World War Two and 16 were killed in action; in total, they gained over 1,500 medals, citations and commendations.
Virginia Hall, serving with the Office of Strategic Services, received the second-highest US combat award, the Distinguished Service Cross, for action behind enemy lines in France. Hall, who had one artificial leg, landed clandestinely in occupied territory aboard a British Motor Torpedo Boat.
After World War Two, demobilization led to the vast majority of serving women being returned to civilian life. Law 625, The Women's Armed Services Act of 1948, was signed by President Truman, allowing women to serve in the armed forces in fully integrated units during peace time, with only the WAC remaining a separate female unit. During the Korean War of 1950–1953 many women served in the Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals, with women serving in Korea numbering 120,000 during the conflict.
Records regarding American women serving in the Vietnam War are vague. However, it is recorded that 600 women served in the country as part of the Air Force, along with 500 members of the WAC, and over 6,000 medical personnel and support staff.
In 1974, the first six women aviators earned their wings as Navy pilots: Jane Skiles O'Dea, Barbara Allen Rainey, Rosemary Bryant Mariner, Judith Ann Neuffer, Ana Marie Fuqua, and Joellen Drag Oslund. The Congressionally mandated prohibition on women in combat places limitations on the pilots' advancement, but at least two retired as captains.
America’s involvement in Grenada in 1983 saw over 200 women serving; however, none of these took part in direct combat. Some women, such as Lt Col Eileen Collins or Lt Celeste Hayes, flew transport aircraft carrying wounded or assault teams, however they were not deemed to have been in direct combat. Several hundred women took part in operations in Panama in 1989, in non-combat roles.
On December 20, 1989, Capt Linda L. Bray, 29, became the first woman to command American soldiers in battle, during the invasion of Panama. She was assigned to lead a force of 30 men and women MPs to capture a kennel holding guard dogs that was defended by elements of the Panamanian Defense force. From a command center about a half-mile from the kennel she ordered her troops to fire warning shots. The Panamanians returned fire until threatened by artillery attack, fleeing into nearby woods. Bray advanced to the kennel to try to stop them, using the cover of a ditch to reach the building. No enemy dead were found, but a cache of weapons was recovered.
The 1991 Gulf War brought greater media attention to the role of women in the American armed forces. A senior woman pilot at the time, Colonel Kelly Hamilton, commented that "[t]he conflict was an awakening for the people in the US. They suddenly realised there were a lot of women in the military." Over 40,000 women served in almost every role the armed forces had to offer. They were not permitted to participate in deliberate ground engagements. Many came under fire, however, and there are many reports of women engaging enemy forces. One example is that of the USS Mount HOOD, AE-29, Pacific Fleet ammunitions carrier in Battle Group Bravo. The Mt. Hood's sister ship, which was all male, was grounded after hitting a mine. The Mt. Hood, regardless of having at least 32 women on board, the first women to board that class of vessel in the USN, filled in. The women aboard the USS Mt. Hood, AE-29, may be the enlisted Navy's very first CONGRESSIONALLY RECOGNIZED females ordered to combat in a Congressionally declared war. That is not to say that they were the first females in combat because, as above illustrates, women have fought the front lines, whether they were afforded official Congressional recognition for their service or not. At any rate, this small ship tackled her duties and from the women leaders aboard came the first African-American female Admiral in the history of the United States Navy, Admiral and second in command of the United States Navy as Vice Chief of Naval Operations: Admiral Michelle Howard.
Today, women can serve on American combat ships, including in command roles, and on submarines. They are not permitted to participate in special forces programs such as Navy SEALs. Women enlisted soldiers are barred from serving in Infantry, Special Forces, however female enlisted members and officers can hold staff positions in every branch of the Army except infantry and armor. Women can however serve on the staffs of infantry and armor units at Division level and above, and be members of Special Operations Forces. Women can fly military aircraft and make up 2% of all pilots in the U.S. military. Although Army regulations ban women from infantry assignments, some females are detailed to accompany male infantry units to handle searches of Iraqi women.
The case United States v. Virginia, in which the Supreme Court ordered that the Virginia Military Institute allow women to register as cadets, gave women soldiers a weapon against laws which (quoting J. Ruth Bader Ginsburg) “[deny] to women, simply because they are women, full citizenship stature—equal opportunity to aspire, achieve, participate in and contribute to society.”
During Battle of Nasiriyah in 2003, American soldiers Shoshana Johnson, the first African-American and first Hispanic female prisoner of war, and Jessica Lynch were captured while serving in Iraq. In the same action, Lori Piestewa, a U.S. soldier, died after driving her Humvee through enemy fire in an attempt to escape an ambush, earning a Purple Heart. She had just rescued Jessica Lynch, whose vehicle had crashed.
Also in 2003, Major Kim Campbell was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for landing her combat damaged A-10 Thunderbolt II with no hydraulic control and only one functional engine after being struck by hostile fire over Baghdad.
SGT Leigh Ann Hester became the first woman to receive the Silver Star, the third-highest US decoration for valor, for direct participation in combat. Female medical personnel had been awarded the same medal, but not for actual combat. She was a team leader of Raven 42, a Military Police squad that broke up an ambush roughly three to four times its strength. Specialist Ashley Pullen received the Bronze Star. The squad leader, SSG Timothy Nein, had originally received the Silver Star, but his award was later upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross. SGT Jason Mike, the unit's medic, also received the Silver Star.
In Afghanistan, Monica Lin Brown, was presented the Silver Star for shielding wounded soldiers with her body, and then treating life-threatening injuries. As of March 2012, the U.S. military has two women, Ann E. Dunwoody and Janet C. Wolfenbarger, with the rank of four-star general.
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- T endrich, Lisa Frank, An Encyclopedia of American Women at War: From the Home Front to the Battlefields, Volume 1 ABC-CLIO, 2013, p 350-51
- Treadway, Sandra Gioia. “Anna Maria Lane: An Uncommon Soldier of the American Revolution.” Virginia Cavalcade 37, no. 3 (1988): 134–143.
- Women and the Civil War, Middle Tennessee State U and Library of Congress.
- DeAnne Blanton. Women Soldiers of the Civil War. Prologue Magazine 25:1, Spring 1993
- Wakeman, Sarah Rosetta, and Lauren M. Cook. 1994. An uncommon soldier the Civil War letters of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, alias Private Lyons Wakeman, 153rd Regiment, New York State Volunteers. Pasadena, Md: The Minerva Center.
- Letter to President William McKinley from Annie Oakley. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Retrieved January 24, 2008.
- "The Women of Redstone Arsenal". United States Army. Retrieved 2009-06-06.
- Busse, Charlane (July 1978). "First women join Pershing training" (PDF). Field Artillery Journal. United States Army Field Artillery School: 40. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
- "The Journal interviews: 1LT Elizabeth A. Tourville" (PDF). Field Artillery Journal. United States Army Field Artillery School: 40–43. November 1978. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
- https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1356&dat=19840823&id=kdgTAAAAIBAJ&sjid=iwYEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6981,4703933%7COcala Star-Banner August 23, 1984.
- http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1990s/1997/mj97/ppp.pdf%7CNaval Aviation News, May–June 1997.
- Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm: Women Were There!
- MM3 Dorothy D. Meindok, Esq./ USS Mount Hood AE-29 sailor
- Johnson, Michael G. (2005-09-27). "First All-female Crew Flies Combat Mission". DefendAmerica.mil. United States Department of Defense. Retrieved 2006-07-02.
- https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/apr/29/us-navy-submarines-women US navy lifts ban on women submariners (The Guardian (UK), 29 April 2010).
- Clare, Micah E. (March 24, 2008), "Face of Defense: Woman Soldier Receives Silver Star", American Forces Press Service
- Military's First Female Four-Star General
- Hegar, Mary Jennings (2017). Shoot Like a Girl: One Woman's Dramatic Fight in Afghanistan and on the Home Front. New York: New American Library. ISBN 9781101988435. OCLC 978355471. The memoir of a USAF helicopter pilot.
- Spears, Sally (1998). Call Sign Revlon: The Life and Death of Navy Fighter Pilot Kara Hultgreen. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press.
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- Wilson, Captain Barbara A., USAF (Ret.). "Military Women in Books". American Women in Uniform, Veterans Too!.