5 Historical Military Women
Since 1987, the United States has celebrated March as National Women’s History Month. In his 2015 Proclamation of the observance, President Obama stated, “This month, we celebrate countless pioneering women and the victories they won, and we continue our work to build a society where our daughters have the same possibilities as our sons.
” This year’s National Women’s History Month theme is “Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government.” Throughout history, countless women have served, sacrificed and stepped up over and over again to answer our nation’s call. Here are the stories of five women affiliated with the military to help you honor National Women’s History Month:
1. Deborah Samson
During the Revolutionary War, Samson felt so-called to serve that she disguised herself as a man and enlisted as “Robert Shirtliffe.” With seemingly insurmountable odds stacked against her, she dressed as a man and headed off to war. She was wounded twice in battle during her three years of service, but it wasn’t until she contracted a brain fever that her true identity was revealed. Samson’s commitment to the cause was so great, she was willing to stake her life and reputation on it.
2. Molly “Pitcher” Ludwig
The ultimate military spouse, Ludwig used to carry pitchers of waters to soldiers during the Revolutionary War (hence her nickname of Molly Pitcher). When her husband collapsed in the Battle of Monmouth, she assumed operations for his cannon, ensuring that his mission continued. Often in military marriages, it seems as though one partner is standing behind his/her spouse. Molly Pitcher Ludwig is an excellent reminder of the importance to stand beside one another, instead.
3. Loretta Walsh
In March 1917, Walsh became the first female to enlist in the Navy and became the first female in the Armed Forces who wasn’t a nurse. Walsh also went on to become the Navy’s first female Chief, paving the way for the nearly 58,000 women on active duty in the Navy, today.
In a ceremony honoring her life and legacy, the Navy Operational Support Center’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Ronald Fauntleroy offered this, “Please take a moment to consider the historic gravity of her enlisted service. She volunteered to serve her country at a time when she wasn’t even allowed to vote.”
4. Oveta Culp Hobby
If you’ve ever visited the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC, then you may have read Colonel Hobby’s humble words, immortalized in marble: “Women who stepped up were measured as citizens of the nation, not as women… This was a people’s war, and everyone was in it.” Hobby served as the U.S. Women’s Army Corps’ first commanding officer. She would later become the first Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, breaking even more gender barriers.
5. Sybil Stockdale
When Mrs. Stockdale’s husband (Vice Admiral James Stockdale) went missing during the Vietnam war, she knew she couldn’t sit by idly. She rallied other spouses and over lunch, they founded what is now the National League of P.O.W./M.I.A. families.
In addition to her fierce advocacy for the safe return of P.O.W.s, Mrs. Stockdale also helped facilitate the transfer of intelligence messages to and from her husband. Upon her death last year, Senator John McCain offered, “Sybils’s selfless service and sacrifice fighting for American prisoners of war, those missing in action and many who are still unaccounted for has left an indelible mark on this nation that will never be forgotten.”
From the warfront to the homefront, women are an important part of our military history. May you spend the month “Honoring Women in Government and Public Service” by learning about our sisters in battle and never forgetting their courage.
T.T. Robinson is a proud Navy wife, writer, and crisis management consultant- a skill that proves useful every day as the mother of two young children.