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Veterans’ Day: Women in the Military

Since the Revolutionary War, women have served the United States in the military. Though not always permitted to enlist, they have aided and fought alongside the male troops. This Veterans’ Day, let us remember the brave women who have protected our freedoms.

In the American War for Independence, better known as the Revolutionary War, many women traveled alongside the Continental Army, boosting morale, mending wounds, and cooking and cleaning for their husbands, brothers, fathers, and sons. Some women, like Margaret Corbin and Deborah Sampson, disguised themselves as men and took an ac­tive part in the fighting, and other women, such as Lydia Darragh, worked in clandestine services for the Continental troops.

During the War Between the States, or the Civil War, nearly 20,000 women served the United States by growing crops, feeding troops, and cooking in Army camps. Women also sewed, laundered uniforms and blan­kets, and organized donations. Women began to officially serve as nurses for the military, and an estimated 3,000 women served in this capacity during the war. Clara Barton trav­eled directly onto the battlefield to tend to the wounded, and Dorothea Dix was appointed superintendent of the United States Army Nurses for the Union Army. Like in the Rev­olutionary War, women also disguised themselves to take an active combat role, with approximately 1,000 women fighting on both sides during the war. Frances Louisa Clay­ton, a woman from Minnesota, took the name Jack Williams and enlisted alongside her hus­band in 1861.

In 1901, the U.S. Army Nurse Corps (ANC) was formally established, and when America entered World War I in April 1917, 403 nurses were in the ANC’s active duty ranks. By June 1918, more than 3,000 nurses had joined and were deployed to hospitals in France. World War I was also the first time women were allowed to openly serve in the United States military. The Navy enlisted “yeomanettes”, women who served in non-commissioned officer and non-combat roles. Around 12,000 women served in the rank of yeoman, mostly working clerical duties, as well as telephone and radio operators and translators. The U.S. Army Signal Corps enlisted women to serve as telephone and switchboard operators. These women were stationed near the front lines in France, and their high-pressure work was not recognized until 1979.

World War II was the first time all branches of the United States military enlisted women. The Army had the Women’s Army Auxilia­ry Corps (WAAC), later restructured as the active duty Women’s Army Corps (WACS). The Army also formed the Army’s Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS). The Navy had the WAVES (Women Accepted for Vol­unteer Emergency Service), the Marines had the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, and the Coast Guard had the Women’s Reserve (SPARS).

Nearly 350,000 American women served in uniform during World War II. 57,000 women served in the Army Nurse Corps and 11,000 in the Navy Nurse Corps. Army Col. Ruby Bradley, a nurse in the Army Nurse Corps, was kept prisoner in the Philippines for 37 months. During her time as a POW, Bradley performed 230 major surgeries and deliv­ered 13 babies in the prison camp. Minnesota women served in World War II as well. 15 women from Minnesota were WASPS. Pearl Gullickson from Donnely, MN, served in the Coast Guard, and Anne Bosanko Green joined the WAC.

1948 saw President Harry S. Truman sign the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, officially allowing women to serve as full, permanent members of all branches of the Armed Forces. 120,000 women served in active duty positions during the Korean War, and 11,000 women were stationed in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Today, women serve in every branch of the U.S. military, filling many different roles.

Silver Bay resident Prudence Melnotte served in the Marine Corps from 1964-1965. She joined to “start a life”, as she lived in the country with no car or driver’s license. “The best part of serving was being the first woman to work in the men’s battalion,” Melnotte said.

Take time to thank a veteran, not only on November 11th, but every day. Remember all that those who served the United States military did to protect our freedom. They swore to, “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” As they have supported our Constitutional rights, it’s time for us to support them.

Haley Searls
Haley Searls
Hello! My name is Haley Searls. I’ve loved writing from an early age, though my nonfiction writing at five years old consisted mainly of weather and gardening reports. I still have some of those early articles: “It’s sunny.” “It’s still sunny.” “It’s raining.” I’m glad to say my writing has improved since then. I wrote a guest post for the Silver Bay Public Library blog, and was the writer/editor of the newsletter for my American Heritage Girls troop. I have been writing for the North Shore Journal since June 2022. Besides writing, I love reading, drawing, photography, music, and spending time with family and friends. Two books that have really influenced my writing are Reforming Journalism by Marvin Olasky and Writer to Writer by Bodie and Brock Thoene. As a journalist, I want to share positive community interactions and inspire people to make lasting connections. Article topics that interest me are ones which show community activities and involvement. Such articles include community events, youth accomplishments, library programming, small businesses, local history, local artists and authors, art programs, and cultural events such as theater and dance. If you have an article idea, email the North Shore Journal with my name in the subject line! I look forward to hearing from you!
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