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Remarkable Women Veterans in American History

by Hans Petersen, VA Staff Writer
Monday, March 10, 2014

VA celebrates Women’s History Month with a look at some fascinating women Veterans and their remarkable achievements.

Sarah Emma Edmonds joined the United States Army to “fight for her country” in the Civil War. She disguised her sex and used the name Frank Thompson. A nurse in the Second Volunteers of the United States Army, she was unique because she able to remain in the army for several years and was successful as a Union spy, while impersonating a man.

Cathay Williams, born in Independence Mo., was the first African American female to enlist, serving in the United States Army as William Cathay. She was a Buffalo Soldier, passing herself off as a man. She survived smallpox and several other illnesses. She was one of the first women to enlist in the Army and was the first African American woman to do so.

Dr. Mary Edwards Walker volunteered for the Union Army as a civilian nurse, as the Army had no female surgeons. She was finally awarded a commission as a “Contract Acting Assistant Surgeon,” becoming the first-ever female U.S Army surgeon. She often crossed battle lines to treat the injured civilians and was captured by Confederate troops and arrested as a spy. She was released and went on to supervise orphanages, become a writer and lecturer, advocating for women’s rights. Walker is the only woman to receive the Medal of Honor.

Eileen Collins: an inspiration to many young women reaching for the stars.

Irene Kinne Englund was born in El Paso, Texas. She piloted military aircraft during World War II as a member of the Women Air Force Service Pilots. She transported medical patients, ferried military aircraft and towed aerial gunnery targets. Because she was such a skilled pilot, she was one of the few women to be awarded Veteran status by the military.

Eileen Collins grew up reading about famous pilots such as Amelia Earhart and other women pilots who inspired her to earn a pilot’s license. During Operation Grenada in 1983, she flew evacuated medical students and their families out of Grenada. In 1998, Eileen Collins became the first Woman Space Shuttle Commander. She is an inspiration to many young women who are also reaching for the stars.

 Sarah Emma Edmonds, Cathay Williams, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, Irene Kinne Englund, Eileen Collins

Unwilling to accept the conventions of their day, they broke the mold. Left to right: Sarah Emma Edmonds, Cathay Williams, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, Irene Kinne Englund, Eileen Collins - See more at: http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2014/March/Remarkable-Women-Vetera...

More information about: North Dakota Women Veterans