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Legacy HomepageNewsSpecial ReportsWomen's History Month 2016

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Women's History Month - Working to form a more perfect union: Honoring women in public service and government.
Military women in uniform

Secretary Announces All Military Occupations Open to Women

"Women will now be able to contribute to our mission in ways they could not before. They'll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars, and lead infantry soldiers into combat. They'll be able to serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALS, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force parajumpers and everything else that was previously open only to men. And even more importantly, our military will be better able to harness the skills and perspectives that talented women have to offer."

Defense Secretary Ash Carter
Full Speech >

Carter Opens All Military Occupations to Women
Dec. 3, 2015

DoD Gives Final Go-Ahead to Open All Military Jobs to Women

The U.S. military is authorized to begin integrating women across all occupations and specialties “right away,” according to a Defense Department statement. Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook briefed reporters on Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s decision and the accompanying statement. Story | Statement


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Carter: Moving Out on Women-in-Service

Defense Secretary Ash Carter talks about how and why the U.S. military is now opening up the last combat positions to women and provides a few key examples that illustrate how we will proceed in a deliberate and methodical manner that will make our force stronger. More

Air Force Capt. Heather Stickney

Love of Science Began at Early Age For Air Force Captain

Air Force Capt. Heather Stickney, whose childhood love of science and flight got her into aerospace engineering, gives advice to young people who share that love. More

the Naval Academy

40 Years of Women at the Naval Academy – 'Ability, not Gender'

Since 1980, more than 4,600 women have graduated from the Naval Academy and have gone on to excel in their military careers and beyond. More


Portrait of President Barack Obama

"During Women's History Month, we remember the trailblazers of the past, including the women who are not recorded in our history books, and we honor their legacies by carrying forward the valuable lessons learned from the powerful examples they set."

- President Barack Obama Proclamation

Facts of the Day

March 2016

  • March 1, 2016

    Each year, the National Women’s History Project selects a theme that highlights achievements by distinguished women. This year's theme -- Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government -- highlights women who have shaped America’s history and its future through their public service and government leadership.

  • March 2, 2016

    In 2012, Air Force Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger became the first female four-star general in the Air Force. After receiving her fourth star, she became the commander of Air Force Material Command. She had previously served as military deputy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition at the Pentagon, where she oversaw research and development, testing, production, and modernization of an annual $40 billion in Air Force programs.

  • March 3, 2016

    Clara Louise Maass volunteered to serve as a contract nurse during the Spanish American War in 1898. After the end of the war, she participated in an experimental program in Cuba to determine the cause of yellow fever. During her time researching and caring for the sick, she became infected and died.

  • March 4, 2016

    Grace Hopper joined the Naval Reserve during World War I and continued to work for the Navy as a reservist. In 1952, the computer-programming pioneer developed a program that translated programming language into machine-readable code -- the first step in the creation of the universal programming language, COBOL. She served for 30 years and was honored posthumously with the christening of the USS Hopper in 1996.

  • March 5, 2016

    Tulsi Gabbard was born in American Samoa in 1981 and moved to Hawaii at age two. In 2003, she joined the Hawaii National Guard and volunteered to deploy to Iraq. When she was sworn in as a congresswoman in 2013, Gabbard became one of the first two female combat veterans, the first Hindu, and the first woman of Samoan ancestry to serve as a member of the U.S. Congress. Gabbard continues to serve in the Hawaii National Guard’s 29th Brigade Combat Team.

  • March 6, 2016

    Maria Mestre de los Dolores Andreu was the first Hispanic-American woman to serve in the Coast Guard and the first to command a federal shore installation in 1859. Andreu took over as the lighthouse keeper at the St. Augustine Lighthouse in Florida after the death of her husband, Juan, the previous lighthouse keeper. She served as the lighthouse keeper until 1862, when the light was extinguished so that it would not help the Union Army during the Civil War.

  • March 7, 2016

    Condoleezza Rice is an American diplomat, political scientist, and the first African-American to serve as the secretary of state.

  • March 8, 2016

    In 1933, Frances Perkins was appointed secretary of labor under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, making her the first nation’s female cabinet member. She held the position for 12 years, longer than anyone before her. After serving as secretary of labor, Perkins served on the U.S. Civil Service Commission under President Truman until 1952. After leaving government service, she spent the rest of her life teaching and lecturing. She died in 1965.

  • March 9, 2016

    Madeleine K. Albright was nominated as secretary of state by President Bill Clinton and was sworn in on January 23, 1997, becoming the first female secretary of state and the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government. Albright had previously served as a representative to the United Nations and as a member of Clinton's cabinet and the National Security Council.

  • March 10, 2016

    On Aug. 13, 1918, Opha Mae Johnson became the first woman to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps. More than 300 women enlist in the Marine Corps Women's Reserve that year to perform jobs vacated by male Marines who left to fight in World War I. Female Marines could not be promoted above the rank of sergeant and performed jobs within the United States.

  • March 11, 2016

    Deborah Sampson was the first American woman to serve in combat when she enlisted at age 21 in the Continental Army under the name Robert Shurtleff during the Revolutionary War. Born in 1760, she kept her gender hidden by tending to her own battle wounds, but she was discovered when she was hospitalized for a fever. In 1783, she was discharged from the Army. She later received a pension when a court found that she had performed a soldier’s duties.

  • March 12, 2016

    Susan B. Anthony was born in 1820 into a Quaker family who considered women and men equal. Anthony spent her life working for equality and promoted temperance and the abolition of slavery. She is best known as a leader in the women’s suffrage movement. Anthony was a member of the Equal Rights Association and a founder of the National Woman Suffrage Association. In 1872, she was arrested and convicted for voting. She fought for women’s equality until she died in 1906.

  • March 13, 2016

    Retired Navy Chief Petty Officer Old Horn-Purdy grew up on the Crow Agency reservation in Montana learning stories of her ancestors from her family while attending school off the reservation. Her desire to learn was her main reason for joining the Navy. In 1985, she became one of the first women on a deployed ship, and in 1999, she was among the first women on a combatant ship. She was in engineering but couldn’t be called a machinist for three years until the field opened to women.

  • March 14, 2016

    Nellie Tayloe Ross was the 14th governor of Wyoming -- and the first female governor in the United States -- in 1925. Ross was elected to replace her husband, who died while he was the governor. In 1869, Wyoming had been the first state to grant women the right to vote, and many in Wyoming wanted their state to be the first governed by a woman. In 1933, Ross was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the first female director of the U.S. Mint, a position she held until 1953.

  • March 15, 2016

    In 2011, Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho became the Army’s 43rd surgeon general. She was the first woman and the first nurse appointed as the Army’s top medical officer. In this position, she was the commander of the U.S. Army Medical Command and directed the third-largest healthcare system in the U.S. Before being appointed as surgeon general of the Army, Horoho was the commander of the Army Nurse Corps.

  • March 16, 2016

    Now in her second term as director general of the World Health Organization, Margaret Chan is the most powerful person in global public health and the only one with the authority to declare a worldwide pandemic. In addition to battling viruses, she champions improvements in maternal care. “What matters most to me is people,” she said. “And two specific groups of people in particular. I want us to be judged by the impact we have on the health of the people of Africa and the health of women.”

  • March 17, 2016

    In 1861, Dorothea Dix volunteered for appointment as Superintendent of Women Nurses. During the Civil War, she recruited and trained more than 6,000 nurses to serve in the war.

    Holm, J. (1992). Women in the Military. An Unfinished Revolution (Revised Edition) Novato, California: Presidio Press.
  • March 18, 2016

    During the outbreak of the Civil War, Clara Barton learned that most of the suffering on the front lines was due to a lack of supplies. She single-handedly organized supply depots for medical equipment and care kits and was nicknamed the “angel of the battlefield.” Her ideas and determination created the organization that came to be known as the American Red Cross.

  • March 19, 2016

    Promoted in 2008, Army Gen. Ann Dunwoody was the first female four-star general officer in the U.S. military.

    Dunwoody, A.E., & Collins, T. (2015). A Higher Standard: Leadership Strategies from America's First Remale Four-Star General. Boston, MA: Da Capo Press.
  • March 20, 2016

    Dr. Mary Walker was an outspoken advocate for women's rights and the only woman ever awarded the Medal of Honor. Walker was born in upstate New York in 1832, and graduated with a doctorate in medicine from Syracuse Medical College in 1855. During the Civil War, she volunteered for the Union and worked as a nurse and later as the military’s first female surgeon. In the summer of 1864, she was a prisoner of war until she was exchanged for a Confederate soldier.

  • March 21, 2016

    Bernice (Bunny) Sandler is a women’s rights activist, best known for her groundbreaking work fighting sexual harassment and discrimination on college campuses. Labeled the “Godmother of Title IX,” Sandler both led efforts for the legislation’s enactment and became a national expert on the law’s implementation. Through her long career she has written three books and more than 100 articles, given more than 2,500 presentations and served as a media expert on sex discrimination in education.

  • March 22, 2016

    Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Dec. 3, 2015, that the U.S. military would open all combat positions to women -- opening about 220,000 jobs that had previously been closed to females.

  • March 23, 2016

    All-female Cultural Support Teams, or CSTs, were created in 2010 by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command to integrate female soldiers onto the battlefield alongside Rangers, Green Berets, SEALs, and other special operations teams in Afghanistan. Their unique composition enabled them to form relationships with other women and children in the area -- things exclusively male units were not capable of in the conservative country.

    Lemmon, Gayle Tzemach (2015). Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.
  • March 24, 2016

    In 1974, the people of Connecticut elected Ella Tambussi Grasso as their governor. She chose to run for the position after a long career in public service and won the election based on her life-long dedication to effective government and the democratic process.

  • March 25, 2016

    In March 1999, following several deployments and service in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Navy Adm. Michelle Howard became the first African-American woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy when she took command of the USS Rushmore. Howard became the 38th Vice Chief of Naval Operations in July 2014.

  • March 26, 2016

    Dr. Nancy Grace Roman is one of the greatest American astronomers of this century. She set an example for women everywhere when she broke into a career field that was largely dominated by men at the time. Often called the “Mother of the Hubble,” Roman was instrumental in developing innovative concepts in the ongoing expansion of the space program.

  • March 27, 2016

    Sandra Day O’Connor was only 22 years old when she graduated at the top of her class at Stanford Law School, but she was only offered positions as a legal secretary. After working abroad for several years and starting a family, she becamean assistant to the Arizona Attorney General and later was appointed to replace a state senator. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan appointed O’Connor to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, making her the first female justice in the Court’s 191-year history.

  • March 28, 2016

    Betty Mae Tiger Jumper is known among Native American women as the first of her tribe to graduate from high school, read and write English, and learn modern medicine as a nurse. Jumper was later elected to be Chief of the Seminole Tribe, thus becoming the first female chief of a federally recognized tribe in America.

  • March 29, 2016

    Inez Milholland Boissevain devoted her life to working for the women’s suffrage movement. Milholland was a lawyer who fought for the rights of working class women, spoke out for racial equality and worked for prison reform. In 1913, she helped plan the Woman Suffrage Parade in Washington, D.C., and she famously led the parade wearing a cape and crown atop a white horse.

  • March 30, 2016

    Vice Adm. Sandra L. Stosz is the Coast Guard’s deputy commandant for mission support and handles a diverse set of responsibilities to support a 17,000-person organization. Since her appointment in June 2016, she has been responsible for any and all facets of support relating to the Coast Guard’s mission.

  • March 31, 2016

    Having lost her parents at a young age, Eleanor Roosevelt was able to understand social conditions better than most of her predecessors when she and Franklin D. Roosevelt moved into the White House in 1933. She was known to greet everyone with grace and friendliness and frequently organized her own press conferences, lectures and radio broadcasts. After the death of FDR, she continued her career and became the American spokesperson in the United Nations.



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