CMH Home
CMH Home
CMH News and Features
U.S. Army Center of Military History

Women in the U.S. Army
March: Women's History Month, 2013

Women have served in the United States Army since 1775. They nursed the ill and wounded, laundered and mended clothing, and cooked for the troops in camp on campaign; services that did not exist among the uniformed personnel within the Army until the 20th Century. Women are an invaluable and essential part of the Army. Currently, women serve in 95 percent of all Army occupations and make up about 15.7 percent of the Active Army. Women continue to have a crucial role in current operations and their sacrifices in this noble effort underscore their dedication and willingness to share great sacrifices.

Women in the U.S. Army

U.S. Army Women's Museum - Ft. Lee, Virginia

U.S. Army Women's Museum - Ft. Lee, Virginia

The U.S. Army Women's Museum is the only museum in the world dedicated to Army women. The Museum honors women's contributions to the Army from the Revolutionary War to the present, telling their stories with interactive exhibits and videos throughout the gallery, as well as film presentations in our theater. The museum also has an extensive research and learning center, and memorial garden.

The museum originated as the Women's Army Corps Museum which was located at Fort McClellan, AL until it was moved to Fort Lee, and reopened in May 2001.

The U.S. Army Women's Museum serves as an educational institution, providing military history training and instruction to soldiers, veterans and the civilian community. The museum is the custodian and repository of artifacts and archival material pertaining to the service of women across all branches and organizations of the U.S. Army from inception to the present day. The museum collects, preserves, manages, interprets and exhibits these unique artifacts as a means to provide training and educational outreach.


CMH Publications:

The Women's Army Corps: A Commemoration fo the World War II Service

The Women's Army Corps:
A Commemoration of the World War II Service

Troops of Company G, 24th Infantry, ready to move to the firing lines, 18 July 1950

Over 150,000 American women served in the Women's Army Corps (WAC) during World War 11. Members of the WAC were the first women other than nurses to serve within the ranks of the United States Army. Both the Army and the American public initially had difficulty accepting the concept of women in uniform. However, political and military leaders, faced with fighting a two-front war and supplying men and materiel for that war while continuing to send lend-lease material to the Allies, realized that women could supply the additional resources so desperately needed in the military and industrial sectors. Given the opportunity to make a major contribution to the national war effort, women seized it. By the end of the war their contributions would be widely heralded.


The Women's Army Corps: A Commemoration fo the World War II Service

The Army Nurse Corps:
A Commemoration of World War II Service

U.S. Army nurse instructs Army medics on the proper method of giving an injection, Queensland, Australia, 1942. (DA photograph)

More than 59,000 American nurses served in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II. Nurses worked closer to the front lines than they ever had before. Within the "chain of evacuation" established by the Army Medical Department during the war, nurses served under fire in field hospitals and evacuation hospitals, on hospital trains and hospital ships, and as flight nurses on medical transport planes. The skill and dedication of these nurses contributed to the extremely low post-injury mortality rate among American military forces in every theater of the war. Overall, fewer than 4 percent of the American soldiers who received medical care in the field or underwent evacuation died from wounds or disease.

The tremendous manpower needs faced by the United States during World War II created numerous new social and economic opportunities for American women. Both society as a whole and the United States military found an increasing number of roles for women. As large numbers of women entered industry and many of the professions for the first time, the need for nurses clarified the status of the nursing profession. The Army reflected this changing attitude in June 1944 when it granted its nurses officers' commissions and full retirement privileges, dependents' allowances, and equal pay. Moreover, the government provided free education to nursing students between 1943 and 1948.

Military service took men and women from small towns and large cities across America and transported them around the world. Their wartime experiences broadened their lives as well as their expectations. After the war, many veterans, including nurses, took advantage of the increased educational opportunities provided for them by the government. World War II changed American society irrevocably and redefined the status and opportunities of the professional nurse.