5 Historically Badass Women We Salute This Memorial Day

by Morgan Gartner

In honor of Memorial Day, we’ve listed some women who have made enormous contributions to our nation’s military while in the service. Here are some of the brave, badass, pioneering, flat-out incredible women that your history books probably “forgot” to mention.

1. Jacqueline Cochran 

Jacqueline Cochran in P 40Via Wikipedia Commons

While she is usually remembered as being the first woman pilot to break the sound barrier, she also has a badass military history. When she first tried to become a pilot in the US Airforce, she was denied, despite her incredible flying skills and multiple world records. Eventually, in 1941 she was accepted, and “became the first woman to fly a bomber across the North Atlantic (biography.com),” and in 1943 was appointed the director of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). For the rest of the war, she trained dozens of female pilots.

2. Cathay Williams

williamsImage Via army.mil
In 1866, women were not yet allowed to enlist in the United States army. That wasn’t about to stop Cathay Williams who, according to Amazing Women in History, “was the first known African American woman to enlist in the United States Army, and the only black woman documented to serve in the 19th century.” Cathay dressed as a man and reversed her name to William Cathay in order to be able to serve. While she was not in the army for very long, because she contracted small pox a few months after enlisting, she certainly had a great impact on history.

3. Ruby Bradley

Colonel Ruby G. Bradley US Army Nurse CorpsVia Wikipedia Commons

In 1941, Ruby Bradley was captured and held as a prisoner of war in the Philipines for 37 months. During this time, she assisted in nearly 230 opperations and delivered 13 children (arlingtoncemetary.net). But that’s not all! These operations couldn’t have happened without the necessary surgical equipment, and Bradley played a huge part in smuggling these necessities into the camps where she was being held. In 1945, she was liberated by US troops and, five years later, returned to the army to serve in the Korean War. Brilliant, brave and tough as hell, we’re proud to have Ruby Bradley on our list.

4. and 5. Frances Wills and Harriet Pickens

fWikipedia Commons

 When Frances Wills and Harriet Pickens entered the United States Navy in 1944, they faced more adversaries than the axis powers. Racism and misogyny ran rampant throughout the ranks. However, that would not stop them from becoming the first two black women officers in the US Navy. They took charge of a division of the Navy called WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), both educating and training new recruits. According to the American Navy’s Website, they were the only two African American officers at this time and through the end of WWII a year later. There were only 72 black women out of the nearly 86,000 waves. 


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