A Brief History of Women in the U.S Military (Part 1)

 By: Sierra Voorhies

Trivia Question: True or False? Army and Navy nurses, all of whom were women, weren’t given veteran’s benefits and equal rights in the military until 1947, when they were granted officer’s status. 

Answer: True

The role of women in the armed forces has only increased since the Revolutionary War in The United State’s history. The history of Black vs White women in the military has commonly been segregated, so in this article I try my best to elaborate side by side the roles and obstacles White and Black women faced as their service roles grew. 

Historical timeline

Revolutionary War (1775-1783)

During the Revolutionary War, women traveled alongside soldiers and did cooking, cleaning, mending, and healing but didn’t participate in battle. There were exceptions of women who disguised themselves as men to serve. Notably Margaret Corbin kept fighting even after her husband was shot and killed. Black Women who were enslaved were brought into the house to help slave owners wives when their husbands went to serve in the militia. They also worked with men to build forts and served as spies under the promise of freedom after their service (NABMW).

Civil War (1861-1865)

During the Civil War, women grew crops, cooked, sewed, fundraised, and notably served as official nurses; about 3,000 women nurses worked for the Union Army. Historians estimate upwards of a thousand women also dressed as men to fight in the war.  Black women were also official and unofficial nurses and served in both Union and Confederate hospitals, as well as the Navy. Black women in the North were paid to raise cotton on plantations for the Union to sell. At first black and troops of color weren’t paid for their service, so their wives, black women and women of color had to support their whole family by laundering other soldiers’ clothing and making food to sell in the camps. Not until 1864 (3 years into the war) were black men paid fully (NABMW).  

World War I  (1914-1918) and 1939-1945)

Before the First World War, the US Army Nurse Corps was formally established. This is a big turning point because women still didn’t have the right to vote, but they could officially serve in the US military. The US Navy also hired 12,000 women to serve as yeoman, who worked at desks, as operators and translators. The US Army Signal Corps also hired women to be telephone operators “3 kilometers from the trenches in France.” (USO) Black women were not allowed to be military nurses until after Armistice had been signed, and all were terminated from hire when the war was over. So Black women served in other ways during WW1 but were still not allowed full participation (NABMW). 

 

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Dorothy Cotton

By Caitlin Easter

“I’m tired of people saying, “And now we present her, who marched with Martin Luther King.”
Well, a lot of folk flew down there one weekend and marched, but I worked.”- Dorothy Cotton

Dorothy Cotton was very similar to other women in the fact that she never got the recognition
she deserved. Even today, the name Dorothy Cotton doesn’t ring a bell in the average American’s
imagination, because beyond the fact that she was black, she was also a women. Despite this, she was a
major champion of the civil rights movement and never allowed her gender to stop her from doing what
she wanted to do. She believed in the power of speech, and encouraged others to speak the truth with
her organizations. She was a major advocate for human rights education and leadership. She spoke at
workshops and with her Institute helped people to understand and shape themselves as leaders to
advance human rights. The Dorothy Cotton Institute was founded in 2007, and works to secure human
rights for everybody through education, interactive exhibits, and movements and campaigns. The
Institute works to develop Human Rights leaders, build a community for these leaders, and promote
practices that lead to justice and healing.

According to The Dorothy Cotton Institute, Ms. Dorothy Cotton was the Education Director at
the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the director of The Citizenship Education Program, the
Vice President for Field Operations for the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolence Social Change,
the Southeastern Regional Director of ACTION under the Carter Administration, the director of Student
Activities at Cornell University, a 2010 National Freedom Award Recipient, and the founder and
namesake of the Dorothy Cotton Institute. Ms. Cotton is now being recognized as a 2019 Honoree in the
National Women’s History Alliance following the theme of: “Visionary Women: Champions of Peace &
Nonviolence.”

Before her death on June 10, 2018, she was a strong and influential advocate for violence
reduction and humanitarian issues. She was a speaker, a teacher, a facilitator, a peaceful resister, and a
woman. Her name will always be tied to Dr. Martin Luther’s because of their strong bond and joint work,
but her impact will forever be so much more than that.

More information about Ms. Cotton and her institute can be found at:

https://www.dorothycottoninstitute.org/

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Medea Benjamin

By: Christina Terrell

Medea Benjamin is an American activist who has advocated for human rights for over twenty
years. Benjamin has traveled to many different countries learning and advocating, writing eight books that are about her experiences abroad along the way. In 2002 Benjamin’s activism took a change of color and tone when she became the co-founder of the women’s organization CODEPINK. A woman led organization that is “working to end
U.S. wars and militarism, but supports human rights and initiatives, so that we can redirect our
tax dollars into healthcare, education, green-jobs and other life affirming programs.” Benjamin
and other prominent CODEPINK founder’s make it their duty to partner with lots of local
organizations who are sure of imposing joy and humor with tactics such as street theatre, creative
visuals, civil resistance and always challenging powerful decision makers in the government and
major corporations. While doing all this, Medea and her Code Pink crew never forget to support
their cause by wearing the lovely color pink!

In the years that Medea Benjamin has been active as an American activist she has had many successes. For example, in 2006, Code Pink put out their first book as an organization that was titled “Stop the next war Now; Effective Responses to Violence and Terrorism”, which was a book that contained a collection essays contributed from very prominent woman involved with activism. Benjamin was then nominated alongside other influential women for the “1000 Women for The Nobel Peace Prize”, which was a collective nomination for women representing women who work for peace and human rights everywhere. Then again, in 2012, Medea Benjamin was awarded the US Peace Memorial Foundation’s Peace Prize to recognize her creative leadership on the front lines of the anti-war movement. Medea Benjamin has been advocating for twenty plus years and she does not seem to be slowing
down anytime soon!

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Rosa Parks

By: Brittany Soto

In honor of Women’s History Month, I wanted to focus my attention on Rosa Parks. Most people are familiar with who Rosa Parks is but to those who aren’t, she was a civil rights activist who was best known for courageously refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white person during a time when segregation was legal. She was thrown in jail as a result of this incident, sparking the infamous Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott. Her vital role in this movement helped bring attention to the mistreatment of colored people and fought against racism and segregation. Her courage and leadership served, not only as an inspiration to people of color, but to ALL women. She was dubbed the second most popular historical figure to be talked about in schools according to a survey by American
students. (Wineburg, 2008).

Rosa Park’s courage and determination to challenge racism and segregation did not start with the bus incident. This is something that has been instilled in her since childhood. She was never afraid to speak up against the mistreatment of colored individuals by standing up against white children who
would try to harass or bully her. She was also the secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and continuously pushed to end segregation in schools and in public places. Despite the challenges she faced as being a fearless colored woman who was determined to fight for what was right, going as far as receiving daily death threats to her and her family, this never stopped her from fighting for peace and the rightful treatment of colored individuals. This just goes to show that doing what’s right isn’t always easy, but is necessary. Rosa Parks is now a legend and an
inspiration to women worldwide.