Vaught (b. 1930) achieved a number of firsts in US
military history. She was the first woman to reach the rank of brigadier
general in the comptroller field, as well as the first woman to deploy with a
Strategic Air Command operational unit.
She served in Spain and Vietnam in addition
to her native US. She served as the leader of the Women in the Military Service
to America Memorial Foundation, which fought to gain recognition for the role
of women in American military history and led to the creation of a memorial in
the Arlington National Cemetery.
Faye Glenn Abdellah (1919-2017) was the
first nurse officer to achieve the rank of two-star rear admiral in the U.S. She was also the first
woman to ever hold the position of Deputy Surgeon General of the United States
Public Health Service.
She obtained her PhD from Columbia University
and conducted pioneering research in nursing, changing the theory from a
disease-oriented to a patient-oriented approach. In 1989 she became the first
dean of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
Anna Mae Hays
the first woman to be promoted to a General Officer rank in the U.S. Armed
Forces. Throughout her career, she strove to fight occupational sexism and
promote the integration of women into the military.
She joined the Army Nurse Corps during World
War II and served in India for more than two years. She was appointed Chief of
the Nurse Corps in 1967, a position which she held until her retirement in 1971.
Her recommendations, which were accepted into military policy, included stopping
the practice of discharging officers for being pregnant and allowing male
spouses of service members to claim the same privileges as female ones.
Elizabeth Choy (1910-2006)
is considered a war heroine in Singapore. During World War II, she supplied
medicine and messages to POWs interned in Changi Prison during the Japanese
occupation of the island.
She was born in present-day Malaysia and went to
study in Singapore, after which she pursued a career in education. During the
war she served as a volunteer nurse with the Medical Auxiliary Service, as well
as a second lieutenant in the women’s auxiliary arm of the Singapore Volunteer
Corps. She delivered packages to the prisoners even at great risk to herself,
and received numerous honours for her humanitarian work, including being made a
member of the Order of the British Empire.
Lakshmi Sahgal (1914-2012) was a
revolutionary during the independence movement of India. She was an officer in
the Indian National Army and was known countrywide as ‘Captain Lakshmi’.
medicine and received her diploma in gynaecology and obstetrics in 1939. During
the independence movement, she commanded an all-female regiment of the army.
She founded the All India Democratic Women’s Association in 1981.
Sheila Widnall (b. 1938) was the US
Secretary of the Air Force between 1993 and 1997. This made her the first woman
to hold this position, and the first to lead an entire branch of the military
in the Department of Defense.
She graduated from MIT and later became
a Professor of Aeoronautics and Astronautics at the same institution. She
became President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in
Mary Hallaren (1907-2005) was the first woman to officially join the US Army. Other women had joined before on several occasions, but only by pretending to be men.
She began working as a teacher, but in 1942 joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAC). By 1947, she achieved the rank of colonel, and became director of the WAC. She received several medals, such as the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star, for her service.
Mildred McAfee (1900-1994) was the first
director of WAVES: Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service, created in
1942, which grew to have as many as 80,000 members enlisted. She was also the
first woman commissioned in the US Naval Reserve, and the first to be awarded
the Navy Distinguished Service Medal.
In addition to her
military service, she also served as director of Wellesley College, and
co-chair of the Women’s Committee for Civil Rights. She was also a US delegate