For hundreds of years women have been discouraged, and even denied, from serving their country. Since the time of the Revolutionary War, almost two million women veterans have voluntarily served their country in the Armed Forces, from doing laundry to fighting in combat. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, women disguised themselves as men and fought side-by-side with male soldiers. During World War I, 33,000 women served and during World War II almost 500,000 served. During the time of the Korean War, 120,000 women were serving in the military and 7,000 women were deployed to Viet Nam. When Desert Storm hit over 40,000 women were deployed and even more have deployed and thousands have served since then. As the Revolutionary War began, the call to arms was for men however several women put on the uniform of the Revolutionary soldier and chose to fight against the British. One such woman was Deborah Samson. In October of 1778, a young woman from Plympton, Massachusetts dressed herself as a young man and willingly volunteered for the American Army. She enlisted under the name Robert Shirtliffe for the term of the war. She served under Captain Nathan Thayer. Deborah served for three years during which she was wounded twice, once she was cut on the head by a sword and a few months later she was shot through the shoulder. Her identity was not discovered until later when she developed brain fever, a common ailment at that time among the soldiers. There were more courageous women who played important roles in the Revolutionary War. Anna Warner Bailey aided wounded soldiers and went house to house to collect material for bandages during the massacre at Fort Griswald in Connecticut. Margaret Corbin took her husbands position and performed his duties after he had fallen at her side during the attack on Fort Washington. Then there is Angelica Vrooman, who calmly sat molding bullets for rangers, in a tent during the middle of a battle (Wilson, 2008). The next war that women played a part in is the Civil War, the War Between the States. Women served as nurses, peddlers of goods, Union and Confederate soldiers and as spies. During this was there was even one woman who was a prisoner of war. This woman was Dr. Mary Walker. She was the first female surgeon in the U.S. Army during the war. In 1863 she was appointed assistant surgeon of the 52nd Ohio Infantry, where part of her job was as a spy. She would cross the Confederate lines to treat injured civilians. In 1864 she was captured by Confederate troops and imprisoned in Richmond for four months. On November 11, 1865, Dr. Walker was recognized for her service in the war effort, without offering her a military commission. She was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for Meritorious Service. She is the only woman to have been awarded this honor.
(Picture from http://userpages.aug.com/captbarb/femvets2.html) One of the earliest women physicians, Dr. Mary Walker, was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Andrew Johnson for her service in the Civil War.
The following is the citation awarded to Dr. Mary Walker:
(…..under the recommendation of Major-Generals Sherman and Thomas, and faithfully served as contract surgeon in the service of the United states, and has devoted herself with much patriotic zeal to the sick and wounded soldiers, both in the field and hospitals, to the detriment of her own health, and has endured hardships as a prisoner of war four months in a southern prison while acting as contract surgeon; and Whereas by reason of her not being a commissioned officer in the military service a brevet or honorary rank can not, under existing laws, be conferred upon her; and Whereas in the opinion of the President an honorable recognition of her services and suffers should be made; It is Ordered. That a testimonial thereof shall be hereby made and given to the said Dr. Mary E. Walker, and...