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Pallas Athene

Pallas Athene: Greek Goddess – wise in the arts of war and industries of peace. She led through victory to peace and prosperity. Pallas Athene was the branch insignia worn by members of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) from 1942 to 1978.

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Lieutenant (1 Lt.) FAWMA

This warrior figure is a tribute to all Army women who have served in defense of our nation. She represents their sacrifices, dedication and loyalty. It was dedicated on Veteran’s Day 2013 and funded through generous donations to Friends of the Army Women’s Museum Association.

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The Rasmuson Legacy

Mary Louise Rasmuson (nee Milligan) was born in Pittsburgh, PA in 1911. A University of Pittsburgh graduate, she joined the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) during World War II and became one of the first female officers graduating from Officer Candidate School in 1942. After the war, she worked her way up the ranks and was appointed Director of the Women's Army Corps in 1957. During her tenure as director Rasmuson was instrumental in increasing the strength of the WAC, for which she was awarded the Legion of Merit. She died in 2012 at the age of 101. This stained glass window, a copy of the original in the WAC Chapel at FT McClellan, AL, as well as many other items in the museum galleries, was made possible by a generous donation from the Rasmuson Foundation.

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The Army Flag

The army’s storied past is represented by this U.S. Army flag with campaign streamers. Each of the 206 streamers tells the story of the army’s proud heritage, with a lineage stretching from the first shots fired for American independence at Lexington in 1775 to current operations in Afghanistan and Syria. The Army forged its identity with each streamer. As you can see, this is not only women’s history, but army history and therefore our nation’s history.

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Oveta Culp Hobby

When the WAAC bill was signed into law, Oveta Culp Hobby was appointed Director of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. Hobby was highly qualified with years of experi- ence as the editor of a Houston newspaper, chief of the Women’s Interest section in the Public Relations Bureau at the War Department, and the wife of a former Texas governor. She had a proven record of achievement but also femininity and grace that would appeal to small town and middle class America. Col. Hobby’s devotion to the Corps was evident in her insistence that she be allowed to enroll in the first Officer Can- didate class so that she could personally understand the challenge for women adjusting to military training. She pursued this through several levels of command and only ac- cepted “no” when General Marshall told her that this was not appropriate due to the Army rank system! She spent four long years putting together a women's Army like none other.

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Army Nurse at Home and Abroad

Ruth Lyeth (Hamblen) c. 1918. This nurse’s uniform was worn by Ruth Lyeth (Hamblen) during World War I. She served at Camp Meade, Maryland, before being sent to Evacuation Hospital No. 30 in Meaux, France and then to Germany after the war. She returned to the U.S. in 1919.

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Establishment of the Army Nurse Corps

Since 1775, women have cared for the sick and wounded. In the American Revolution, the Continental Congress mandated one nurse for every ten patients and a matron for every one hundred. In the Civil War nearly 10,000 women provided medical care under the supervision of Dorthea Dix, the Superintendent of Female Nurses. During the Spanish-American War, nurses were called upon in support of troops stricken with dreaded tropical diseases. By 1901, the Medical Department acknowledged the need for a more permanent presence of nurses and created the Army Nurse Corps (ANC).

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Dovey Roundtree

Dovey Roundtree was one of thirty-nine African American women who graduated from the First Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps Officer Candidate Class in August 1942.

Listen to Her Story Portrayed by an Actress


See more images of Dovey Roundtree

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Lt. Frances Nash’s Canteen

This Model 1910 aluminum canteen was carried by Lt. Frances Nash, and Army nurse who served in the Philippines. One of the famous “Angels of Bataan,” Nash was captured by Japanese forces in 1942 and endured nearly three years in the infamous POW camp at Santo Tomas.

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DA Civilian Hat

This hat was worn by Jan Neufeld in Vietnam from 1971-1972. She worked as a Department of the Army Civilian (DA) in Special Services (Morale, Welfare and Recreation). While in country she worked at two different "Serviceman Clubs" at Phu Bai and Vang Tau. Her duty uniform was a Blue Civilian dress with a matching blue "Boonie" Hat. While in Vietnam soldiers gave her their unit patches and assorted insignia which she attached to her hat.

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LBJs Pen

In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Public Law 90-130 with this pen. The legislation eliminated restrictions on promotion and retirement for women in the armed forces. Within five years, 437 of the Army’s 485 military occupational specialties (MOSs) were opened to women, allowing them to serve in additional fields such as ammunition specialist, dog trainer, plumber, or quarryman. Combat arms branches, such as infantry and armor, remained closed to women until 2016.

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Hazel Winifred Johnson-Brown

Brig. Gen. Hazel Winifred Johnson-Brown was the 16th Chief of the Army Nurse Corps and the first African-American woman to attain general officer’s rank in U.S. Army history. She joined the Army in 1955, less than a decade after President Truman’s executive order that desegregated the U.S. military. She quickly rose through the ranks of the ANC and earned her PhD at the Catholic University of America, making her the first Chief of the Army Nurse Corps with a doctorate. After retiring in 1983, Johnson-Brown enjoyed a second career in academia, teaching at Georgetown University and George Mason University.

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Harriet West Waddy’s Cigarette Case

At age 38, Harriet West Waddy was among the first African American officers commissioned in the Army in August of 1942. She attained the rank of major during World War II and after the war was one of the few black officers deployed overseas. Maj. West was the first WAC assigned to Kitzengen Basic Training Center, near Wurzburg, Germany as assistant post inspector. It was during this time that she bought the pictured cigarette case. The item was donated to the museum in 2000.

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Marian Anderson’s Beret

In 1983, revolutionaries in the Caribbean nation of Grenada executed the civilian prime minister and instituted a military dictatorship, threatening the safety of approximately one thousand U.S. citizens. President Ronald Reagan authorized Operation Urgent Fury to neutralize the revolutionaries and reestablish a stable government. Four Army women were deployed with their military police but were promptly returned to their base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina due to a lack of clear policy governing women in a combat zone. Spec. Marian Anderson, whose beret is seen here, was one of the four. After a thirty-six hour debate between Congress and the administration, they were returned to Grenada and more than 100 women participated in the operation.

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Island of Integration

Camp Lee, Virginia, was chosen as the training center for female enlisted and officer personnel in 1948. Approximately 30,000 WACs were trained there before it was moved to Ft. McClellan, Alabama. Also in 1948, President Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9981 declaring “there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.” This policy was quickly adopted by the women at Camp/Fort Lee. By the early 1950s, the training center was described by newspapers as “an island of integration in an otherwise sea of segregation.” Women, regardless of race, were training, working, living and socializing side by side while the rest of society and even the military installation remained racially segregated.

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All Female Army Bands

Musicians are integral to the order, discipline, and morale of troops. There were five WAC bands in World War II that played for ceremonies at training bases, marched during parades in local communities, and welcomed home troops at the ports of embarkation. In 1948, the 14th Army Band (WAC) carried on the tradition as the only all-female band in the Army. It became the post band at Ft. McClellan in 1960 and integrated men in 1976. Women continue today to play an important role in Army bands and soldiers shows.

Listen to The 14th Army Band

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The First Gulf War

In the summer of 1990 Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait to seize its valuable oil resources. The U.S. came to the aid of Kuwait with Operation Desert Shield, followed shortly thereafter with a United Nations response, Operation Desert Storm. In the largest call up of women since World War II, more than 24,000 Army women served in these operations. Fourteen women died and two were taken prisoner. With the mobilization of the Army Reserve and National Guard, which was 24% female at the time, the Army utilized women to their fullest potential. Military leaders acknowledged that excluding women from the mission would have impaired combat readiness. In 1994, the Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule was put into effect, opening many positions to women, but clearly delineating where women could not serve in order to limit their exposure to hostile fire. The rule was rescinded in 2013.

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Drill Sergeant Hats

When the first group of women graduated from the Army’s drill sergeant school in 1972, they were issued the male drill sergeant hat, modeled after the World War I “campaign hat,” until a distinct female one could be designed and produced. The second group was given the new headgear, modeled after the “Australian bush hat.”

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Female Helicopter Pilots

As the debate over women in combat continued in the early 90s, Secretary of Defense Les Aspin opened combat aviation to female pilots in 1993. Although women had begun flying Army rotary wing aircraft twenty years earlier, they were barred from assignments, and thus training, in aircraft such as attack helicopters. Enabling them to fly AH-1 Cobra and AH-64 Apache helicopters was a clear acknowledgement that the Army had confidence in a woman’s ability to perform in combat. In the modern Army, women are breaking new ground in the field of combat aviation. The helicopter pictured here is an OH-58 Kiowa.

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SGT Motley

In 1982 Sgt. Andrea Motley (Crabtree) became the first Army woman to graduate from the Second Class Diver Course. She completed an intensive Naval training program that had over a 70% attrition rate. She was assigned as a diver at the U.S. Army Petroleum Distribution System in Korea, where she and one other woman were forced to reclassify when the military occupational specialty (MOS) 00B (diver) was restricted to men only. It would be more than a decade before the field re-opened to women.

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Opportunities

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West Point Class of 1980

In 1975 President Gerald R. Ford signed a bill into law that allowed the admission of women into the service academies in the fall of 1976. When the first gender integrated class from West Point was commissioned into the Regular Army in 1980, they helped usher in an era of greater opportunities for women in training, assignments, and pro- motions.

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Sherri Gallagher’s Marksmanship Hat

Each year the Best Warrior Competition recognizes soldiers who demonstrate commitment to the Army values, embody the warrior ethos, and represent the force of the future. In 2010 Sgt. Sherri Gallagher became the first woman to earn the coveted title of Best Warrior. This black cap was worn by Sgt. Gallagher while serving as a sharpshooter with the US Army Marksmanship Unit and competing across the globe in rifle shooting events from 2009-2010.

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Leigh Ann Hester

Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester was awarded the Silver Star for her actions during an ambush that took place outside Baghdad in 2005. It was the first such medal awarded to a woman since World War II and the first recognizing that it was earned for direct combat action against an enemy.

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Gen. Ann Dunwoody

In 2008, Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody became the first woman in the history of the United States Armed Forces to achieve the rank of four-star general she came from a family with four generations of West Point graduates, but when she decided to join the Army, the U.S. Military Academy was closed to women. Instead, she went to college at the State University of New York in Courtland and entered the Junior College Program of the Women’s Army Corps. Through that program she went to WAC officer training for four weeks in the summer and was then commissioned a second lieutenant in 1975.

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Army Spouses

Military spouses are a loyal, dedicated force that supports the defense of our nation with little reward or recognition. The Continental Army’s first “first wife,” Martha Washington, said “the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not our circumstances.” Spouses have taken care of the home front – raising children, taking care of parents, and managing the day to day activities of their households. Through the span of their spouse’s Army career, wives and husbands have endured moving from one post to the next often more than a dozen times. Home is Where the Army Sends You is often seen hanging in the family’s quarters. Spouses of the senior commissioned and noncommissioned officer in a unit are expected to be at the ready to assist other families and their responsibilities grow as do those of their husband or wife in command. Many have professional careers at the same time. Where ever and whenever they are needed spouses contribute to the Army’s successes. Their dedication and tireless efforts have made the U.S. Army an unequaled fighting force.

See a Photo Gallery

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Ranger School

The realities of the battlefield and the recognized contributions of women to the Army’s success led to their unrestricted service. The carefully planned two year integration timeline called for a systematic approach to incorporating women into combat arms training and assignments. In 2016 all restrictions were lifted. They joined and trained in the infantry and armor branches and specialties previously closed to them in field artillery. In 2015, the first Army women were sent to Army Ranger School, where they successfully graduated. Seen here, a female Ranger candidate is carrying a fellow candidate on the obstacle course at Fort Benning, Georgia.

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Helen Coates’ YMCA Uniform

This WWI YMCA uniform belonged to Helen Coates of Wausau, Wisconsin. Coates spent eight months in the Entertainment Service of the YMCA, utilizing her talents as a violinist to play for the doughboys serving in France. She would play two or three violin concerts per day in any available venue from posh hotels, farmer’s barns to American battleships. The uniform was designed by Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. and cost a hefty $125.

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14th WAC Band Monument

The center slab of this monument to the 14th Army WAC Band dates back to the 1950’s and was originally located at the WAC Training Center at Fort McClellan, AL. It was remounted and re-dedicated during the museum’s grand re-opening ceremony on November 2, 2018.

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Female Engagement Teams

It became evident on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan that female soldiers were needed for specialized work. Initially, women were attached to combat units to assist with missions involving women in the local population. Eventually, all-female teams were formed because cultural norms forbade male U.S. soldiers from approaching local women. Assignments for female engagement teams, cultural support teams and provincial reconstruction teams included medical outreach, community engagement, needs assessment, search and seizure, removal of threats, and information gathering. These groups built goodwill and confidence with local leaders and their work laid the foundation for extraordinary policy changes regarding assignment and utilization for all Army women.

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Sgt. Theresa Blue Bird

American communities realized that a modern deployment meant danger, separation, and sacrifice for all service members. Staff Sgt. Theresa Blue Bird deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom with Task Force All-American. After her deployment, she was assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina., where she served as the Food Service Sergeant for the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 82d Paratrooper Support Battalion, from 2002 until her retirement in 2004. She was later presented with this Sioux warrior’s quilted blanket, a tradition passed through generations, to recognize a tribe member’s participation in combat; she is the first woman from the Lakota tribe to have honorably completed twenty continuous years of active duty Army service.

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Changing Fashions

Uniforms were one of the primary ways in which the polished image of an Army woman was portrayed. The styles, designed by women for women, changed with the fashions of the time, some mirroring the look of male uniforms in color and cut and sometimes differing significantly by reflecting the most popular civilian styles. These photos show just a handful of the dozens of uniform changes for Army women from the 1950s – 1970s.

See Photos of the Changing Fashions

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Handmade Sign

Over 8,000 Army nurses and almost 1,000 WACs served in Vietnam. For the latter, when they arrived in country they were wearing the Army Green cord uniform with black pumps, gloves, and a purse. After suffering miserably for several months in the hot and humid jungle climate, they were authorized by the commander of U.S. forces to wear fatigues and combat boots, much to the dismay of WAC director Col. Elizabeth Hoisington. Hoisington preferred that her Army women remained in the more feminine uniforms. This handmade sign was displayed in honor of Col. Hoisington’s visit to the WAC Detachment in Vietnam in 1967. Note the uniform the painted figure is wearing on the sign.

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Sickness Everywhere

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M1910 Meat Pan

Army Nurse Minnie McEwan, assigned to Base Hospital No. 22, used this Army M1910 Meat Pan while serving in France during World War I. While overseas, the Army Nurse Corps symbol, her name, hospital unit and location were carved onto the meat pan. Creating “trench art” was a popular activity for those serving with the military. Interestingly, McEwan’s meat pan was found by the artifact’s donor while he was cleaning an old barn in Payson, AZ.

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Revolutionary War Canteen

This is the type of canteen carried by Revolutionary War soldiers. Women served with the Continental Army from its inception in 1775, primarily in roles such as laundresses and cooks. While not in uniform, these women shared in the hardships of Army life during the Revolution. In some cases, a few courageous women such as Margaret Corbin found themselves on the battlefield. When her husband, John, was mortally wounded at the Battle of Fort Washington in 1776, Margaret took up his post and continued to fire his cannon on the battlefield. In 1779, Congress authorized a pension for Margaret, earning her the distinction of being the nation’s first servicewoman.

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Nisei WACs

Beginning in 1943, the War Department recruited Japanese American women as linguists for work in cryptology and communications. Many came from Hawaii or directly from internment camps run by the War Relocation Authority. This photograph shows Nisei (Japanese-American) WACs beginning their journey to Tokyo in 1946. While there, they were discharged from the Army and continued to serve in a civilian capacity.

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The WASP

The Army’s severe shortage of pilots in 1942 prompted the creation of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP. Led by Nancy Love and Jacqueline Cochran, more than 1,000 female volunteers flew every type of aircraft in the Army’s fleet. These women delivered new planes from factories to military bases, tested refurbished planes, towed targets for anti-aircraft gunnery practice, flew searchlight tracking missions, and instructed male pilot cadets. This dangerous work resulted in the deaths of thirty-eight WASPs.

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The Manhattan Project

More than 400 WACs worked in support roles for the research and creation of the atomic bomb at Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Los Alamos, New Mexico; and Pasco, Washington. The first ones reported for duty with the Manhattan District at Santa Fe, New Mexico, in April 1943. Women specialized in scientific and cryptographic techniques, metallurgy, and electronics. They worked twelve hour shifts, seven days a week under the utmost secrecy.

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The “Hello Girls”

When the American Expeditionary Forces arrived in France, the commander General John J. Pershing quickly became frustrated with the customs and language of the native telephone operators the Army was using. He requested American bilingual switchboard operators be sent as soon as possible. In March 1918 the first Signal Corps Female Tele- phone Operators Unit arrived in France. They were colloquially nicknamed the “Hello Girls.” More than 7,000 women applied for the 450 positions needed!

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Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps

In the years between the world wars, several concepts for a women’s army corps were discussed. It was not until after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 that serious consideration was given to the plan. Public and military sentiment swung in favor of the creation of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) but only to last the duration of the war plus six months. The first WAAC director was Col. Oveta Culp Hobby of Texas.

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