Women Veterans Day, also referred to as Women Veterans Recognition Day and Women Veterans Appreciation Day, is observed on June 12th, a date chosen to mark the anniversary of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act. Not yet recognized nationally. There are many states that have passed legislation or a proclamation.
Even though women have been serving since the Revolutionary War, President Harry S. Truman on June 12, 1948, signed into law the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, it enabled women to serve as permanent, regular members of not only the Army but also the Navy, Marine corps, and the recently formed Air Force. Prior to then, only women nurses could serve in the regular and reserve forces during peacetime.
Women in Texas led the charge with Governor Greg Abbot signing Women Veterans Day into law on June 9, 2017. Many states have followed. Veterans, active members of the military, and civilians are all encouraged to reach out to their state’s Veterans Administration to urge lawmakers to recognize this important date.
This legislation was radical for its time, and yet it placed limitations on women’s service that seem astonishing today. Under the law’s provisions and implementing policies women could:
- Constitute no more than two percent of the total force and the number of women officers could not exceed ten percent of that total.
- Promotions for women officers were capped above paygrade 03 (Army, Air Force and Marine Corps Captain and Navy Lieutenant) Only a limited number of women could serve above that paygrade, and they could not serve permanently as Navy Captains or Colonels in the other services. They were barred altogether from Flag and General Officer ranks. The Coast Guard was not included in the legislation.
- Woman were banned from serving aboard Navy ships except for transports and hospital ships and aboard any aircraft that could have a combat mission. Ground Combat was excluded from this legal ban because Congress considered the idea of women in ground combat as too ridiculous to warrant inclusion.
- Women were denied spousal benefits unless their spouses were verified as unavoidably dependent on their wives for at least fifty percent of their support.
- Women were also excluded by policy from exercising Court Martial or Non-Judicial Punishment authority over men—which made them ineligible to command any units that were not all-female.
- Any woman who became pregnant, became the guardian of a child under 18 or married a man with a child under 18 who spent more than 30 days per year in the household was discharged from service.
On June 12, 1948, President Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, enabling women to serve as permanent, regular members of the United States Armed Forces. There is much history behind this date, although the act promised more opportunities for women, it also limited the number of women who could serve in each branch to two percent of the total number of enlistees per branch. So, while women certainly integrated the armed forces, their overall presence remained limited. Prior to the signing of this act, many women were limited to roles as reservists, volunteers, and government employees, or even used alternative methods such as impersonating men to fight for our country.
Many of the women who served during WWI and WWII were not granted veteran status until long after their service and sadly, many passed before they were officially recognized as veterans. The Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, coupled with Truman’s decision to desegregate the military, also permitted African-American women to officially serve in the military. Annie E. Graham, for example, became the first African American woman to join the Marine Corps in 1949.
Women have served in America’s wars and conflicts throughout America’s history and performed many jobs, playing vital roles in the Revolution, serving as soldiers, raising morale, and spying on the enemy. More than 400 women fought in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. During World War I, about 35,000 women officially served as nurses and support staff, such as the Hello Girls, formally known as the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit. In World War II, 140,000 women served in the Women’s Army Corps (WACs) performing critical jobs, such as military intelligence, cryptography, and parachute rigging. In August 1943, the WAFS and WFTD merged into a single unit for all women pilots and formed the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), who flew more than 60,000 miles in two years. During this time, the 6888th Battalion was formed as the first and only all-Black Female Women Army Corps (WAC) unit to be deployed overseas during WWII. Their nickname was “Six-Triple Eight” and their motto was “No Mail, Low Morale.”
A time to educate, validate, and commemorate women who have served. Today there are still many women Veteran history lessons to be taught. There are almost two million women Veterans in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Territories/Foreign, according to VA.
|Women serve in George Washington's spy ring during Revolutionary War
|Deborah Sampson, disguised to serve in Continental Army
|Mary Edwards Walker, 1st Female Medal of Honor Recipient
|Cathay Williams, First African American Woman to Enlist
|Congress Passes Women's Armed Services Integration Act
|Elizabeth Barrett, was the first female to hold operational command in a combat zone.
|The first women to graduate from the service academies
|Wendy B. Lawrence, the first Navy Woman selected as an Astronaut by NASA
|The Center for Women Veterans was established by Congress
|Martha McSally, the First Female fighter pilot to fly on a mission in Iraq
|Army General Ann Dunwoody, the first female to achieve a four-star officer rank
|All military positions officially opened to qualifying individuals regardless of gender
|Army Capt. Kristen Griest, the first female infantry officer in American History