To mark the end of Women’s History Month, we celebrate women in the military. These women have opened doors for all women to choose a military career and serve.
The First to Receive Medals
- The first, and only, woman to receive The Medal of Honor was Dr. Mary E. Walker, a surgeon during the Civil War.
- Annie G. Fox, the first woman to receive The Purple Heart, served during the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.
- The Bronze Star went to 1st Lt Cordelia E. Cook, Army Nurse Corps, during WWII. She was also the first woman to receive two awards – The Purple Heart and The Bronze Star.
- Lt Edith Greenwood was the first woman awarded The Soldiers Medal in 1943 for heroism during a fire at a military hospital in Yuma, Arizona.
- Lt Elsie S. Ott, the first woman to receive The Air Medal, was honored for her actions in 1943 as an air evac nurse.
- Barbara Olive Barnwell was the first woman awarded the Navy-Marine Corps Medal for heroism in 1953. A SSGT from Pennsylvania and member of the Marine Reserve, she saved a soldier from drowning in 1952.
- Colonel Oveta Culp Hobby, the first Director of the WAC, was the first woman to receive The U.S. Army Distinguished Service Medal in 1945.
The First to Enlist
- Philadelphian Loretta Walsh enlisted in March of 1917 and became the first Yeoman (F) in the Navy.
- The Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, signed by President Harry Truman, was a landmark legislation passed in 1948. Under the Act, women were permitted to serve as regular members of the armed services for the first time.
“During the time I have had WACs under my command, they have met every test and task assigned to them … their contributions in efficiency, skill, spirit, and determination are immeasurable.”
–American General Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1945.
“Today, every American can be proud that our military will grow even stronger with our mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters playing a greater role in protecting this country we love.”
–President Barack Obama in 2013
Fun GFWC Facts:
The General Federation of Women’s Clubs has long been a supporter of men and women in the military. In 1942, the second floor of historic GFWC Headquarters was converted into office space for the newly named WAR SERVICE DEPARTMENT. The department developed a lending library and provided valuable information in support of the war effort.
GFWC was invited by U.S. Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius to participate as a consultant to the US Delegation at the UN Conference on International Organization, one of only five women’s organizations so honored. GFWC representatives witnessed the signing of the U.N. Charter in San Francisco, CA, on June 26, 1945.