Special Report

Female Veterans Who Changed US History

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of women flying in the U.S. Navy, a group of women made history at this year’s Super Bowl on Feb. 12 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, when they became the first all-woman flight crew to perform the flyover before the annual NFL championship game. The Navy said in a statement that 11 women were selected as the flight crew for four of the most advanced warplanes in the U.S. arsenal: the F-35C Lightning II, two F/A-18F Super Hornets; and an EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft. The logistics and maintenance crews for the performance are also all women, the Navy added.

These women are symbolic of the U.S. military’s acceptance – often initially reluctant – of women, dating back to the Civil War all the way up to the most recent performance of a Super Bowl tradition. (These are the countries with the most women serving in the military.)

To identify 20 female veterans who changed U.S. history, 24/7 Tempo reviewed a number of internet sources, including Army Times and Military.com, to learn about women who served in the military and stood out in their role of changing history in some way.

The list includes Underground Railroad “conductor” Harriet Tubman, who spent decades fighting for recognition of her service as a Union Army scout and spy during the Civil War.  

Three women on this list were prisoners of war: a Civil War Union Army field surgeon who scandalized colleagues by wearing trousers, an Army nurse who saved the lives of fellow prisoners held by the Japanese during World War II, and a flight surgeon who was shot down during the First Gulf War of 1990-91.

There’s the late Grace Brewster Murray Hopper, a Yale-educated mathematician, computer scientist, and U.S. Navy rear admiral who served in the military for a half century and whose programming language utilizing English words and syntax helped to create the immensely popular COBOL computer language.

Click here to see female veterans who changed U.S. history

Half of these women began their military service before the end of World War II. Five of them entered military service in the 1970s and five began their military careers as early as 1982, including the first two female Army Ranger School graduates from the class of 2015. (Here’s what it takes to be in 16 of America’s elite military forces.)

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