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Women in the U.S. Military

Women have served in the U.S. military throughout its history — either officially or unofficially — in both supporting roles and as combatants.

  • In the Revolutionary War, Deborah Sampson disguised herself as a man to fight in a light infantry company.
  • In the Civil War, Harriet Tubman was the first woman to lead a major US military operation when she led a unit of Black Union Soldiers in the Combahee Ferry Raid.
  • Prior to World War I, women officially served primarily in the roles of nurse, physician, laundress, armament worker, communications support, as well as combatant.
  • In 1901, women began officially serving in the U.S. Army and in the Navy in 1909.
  • After World War I, women’s participation came to be regarded as a necessity rather than just an option during times of crisis.

Since then, the numbers of women in the U.S. military has grown and female service members, who play broad and pivotal roles in military operations. In addition, women’s unpaid and/or unacknowledged labor outside of formal military operations sustained the US economy and generation of supplies.

In addition, the Department of Defense celebrates Women’s History Month every year in March with articles and highlights from around the services

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Last Updated: July 11, 2023
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