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Women In Military History – Fun Facts

Julia Childs

Famous for being a chef, author, and television personality, she is remembered most for bringing gourmet cooking to the domestic kitchen. However, feeling the need to serve her country in WW2, she tried to enter military service by enlisting in the Women’s Army Corps (WACs). She was rejected for service because she exceeded the height maximum at 6’ 2” tall.

Undeterred, she joined the Office of Strategic Services (OSS0, – the precursor to the current CIA. She started as a junior research assistant before being transferred to the OSS Emergency Sea Rescue Equipment Section. There, she worked on the team that developed shark repellant that was put on bombs and pilot life preservers.


Sarah Emma Edmonds

Sarah was one of the few women who served in the Civil War. Fleeing an abusive father and forced marriage, she landed in Flint, Michigan, where she assumed the persona of a man. Shortly thereafter, she enlisted as a male field nurse in the Union Army.

During her service, she participated in the Battle of Antietam, the Civil War’s bloodiest battle. She was also known to be a spy for the Union, infiltrating the Confederate army several times, although there are no official records of her efforts as a spy. She was a master of disguises, becoming a Southern sympathizer, a black man, and an Irish soap peddler as needed.

Upon contracting malaria, she was forced to resign for fear of being discovered as a female at a military hospital. She continued to serve at a soldier’s hospital in Washington, D.C, although now as a female.


Bernice Frankel

Better known for her stage name, Bea Arthur, and her hit television shows, “Maude” and “The Golden Girls,” Bea joined the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve in 1943 at the age of 21, becoming one of the first women members. She worked as a typist and a truck driver.

Her reputation in the military was not dissimilar from the characters she portrayed on television. She was known as argumentative, and her attitude and manner were “over-aggressive.” In fact, one note from an interview stated that she was “Officious- but probably a good worker- if she has her own way!”


Loretta Walsh

Loretta Walsh has the distinction in military history of being the first enlisted woman. Historical records reflect that on March 17, 1917, the first woman to enlist in the Navy was Loretta Perfectus Walsh.  She was born on April 22, 1896, in Philadelphia and thus had the distinction of being the first woman to serve in any of the U.S. armed forces other than a nursing assignment.

Walsh, aged 20, was enlisted on March 17, 1917, as a Yeoman(F), all of whom were popularly referred to as “Yeomanettes.” On March 21, 1917, Walsh was sworn in as Chief Yeoman, becoming the first woman Chief Petty Officer in the Navy.1


Eileen Collins

Eileen is a retired NASA astronaut and Air Force Colonel. She has the honorable distinction of being the first woman to pilot the Space Shuttle and the first to command a Space Shuttle Mission. Following a degree in Mathematics and Economics from Syracuse University, she was commissioned as an officer in the USAF through Syracuse’s Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program.

In 2005, following a fantastic career as an Air Force pilot and NASA astronaut, Colonel Collins retired to spend more time with her family. She had flown 6,751 hours in thirty different aircraft types and logged over 872 hours in space flights.


Adm. Michelle Howard (Ret.)

A 1982 Naval Academy graduate, Adm. Michelle Howard became the first black woman to command a U.S. Navy combatant ship, USS Rushmore (LSD 47) (1999). She was the first woman promoted to the rank of four-star admiral (2014).

Upon her promotion, Howard became the highest-ranking woman in U.S. armed forces history and the highest-ranking black woman in Navy history. She served as VCNO from 2014 to 2016. Howard also became the first woman four-star admiral to command operational forces when she assumed command of both U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Naval Forces Africa and Allied Joint Forces Command Naples (NATO) from 2016 to 2017. Howard retired from the Navy in 2017 after nearly 36 years of service.2


1 The United States Navy Memorial

2 The United States Navy –


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