It's not often you hear tales of female war heroes. And why? Because women were only allowed into combat in very recent history. The first female U.S participants in war (officially) was in the last years of World War I when 33,000 women were commissioned as nurses and support staff for the male soldiers. In 1948 there came into effect the Women's Armed Services Integration Act of 1948, that excluded women from any and all combat positions in wars henceforth. The act has been lifted to varying degrees in 1993 and 2001, to let women engage in combat through some areas of the military. In 2013 it was completely lifted to allow female participation in all aspects of the U.S military including the Navy and the Marines.
Below are five women who defied the stigmas attached to women in warzones and pursued their military careers nonetheless, ranging across the world from Italy in World War II, to Vietnam, Afghanistan, and all the way back to the American Civil War. We salute you, ladies.
Sarah Edmonds Courtesy of National Archives
Sarah Emma Edmonds
A master of disguise, Sarah Emma Edmonds was best known for serving as a man – Franklin Flint Thompson – in the Union Army during the American Civil War. She was one of the few females to have served in the Civil War, where she discovered that life was easier when dressed as a man. She participated in several battles, including the Second Battles of Manassas and Antietam.
She also allegedly served as a Union spy in the Confederate army; one of her purported aliases was a black man named Cuff, for which she disguised herself using wigs and silver nitrate to dye her skin. Despite her guises, she was still recognized for her contributions – she was awarded an honorable discharge from the military and admittance to the Grand Army of the Republic as its only female member.
Lt. Mary Roberts Wilson
Mary Roberts Wilson. Courtesy of Flashback Dallas
A war nurse at Anzio in Italy during the allied invasion of Germany in 1944, Wilson was named "The Angel of Anzio" during one of the most difficult sieges of the second World War in Italy. She was the first American woman to be awarded the Silver Star for courage under fire during World War II. During one particularly bad raid, she was asked should she and 50 other of her nurses evacuate, to which she responded no, and continued to work amidst the chaos of flying shrapnel from long-range artillery shells aimed right at her tent. Wilson passed away in 2001.
Grace Murray Hopper
Grace Hopper Courtesy of Obama White House
Also known as “Amazing Grace,” Grace Murray Hopper left an indelible legacy in the U.S. naval history. She was the third programmer of Mark I, the world’s first large-scale computer, and founded the COBOL programming language, which set the foundation for many of the software code approaches of today. Hopper joined the Naval Reserves in 1943 during World War II, where she tackled the Bureau of Ordinance Computation Project, where she made great strides and contributions for the Navy and computer scientists alike. As a tribute, a destroyer was named after her, as well as the supercomputer Cray XE6 “Hopper.” Distinguished and inspirational, Hopper will not soon be forgotten.
Capt. Jennifer M. Moreno
Having arrived in Afghanistan to nurse, she volunteered to serve in a cultural support unit, which typically had one woman in order for them to communicate with Afghan women. In October of 2015, Moreno was on patrol at a raid on a Taliban bomb-making compound. After a suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest, Moreno ran to the aid of one of her fellow soldiers. In the process, she stepped on a land mine. Moreno was on her first deployment to Iraq when she was killed in combat. She was posthumously promoted to the rank of captain and awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Purple Heart, Afghanistan Campaign Medal and NATO Medal and Combat Action Badge.
Capt. Jennifer Moreno. Courtesy of U.S Special Operations Command
Army Specialist Five Karen Irene Offutt
Offutt was serving in Vietnam when a shanti caught fire across the street from her. Barefoot and without regard for her own life, she ran into the burning entrapment to save the Vietnamese people, both young and old, caught inside. Having rescued both adults and children, she was to be awarded the Soldiers Medal for her brave efforts, only to be told women could not receive such an accolade. She was instead awarded a certificate. It's said that she wasn't phased by the blatant disregard for her gender, and in 2001 - over 30 years after the incident, she was finally awarded the Soldiers Medal by a representative of Congressman Mike Bilirakis. Offutt is still alive today, but we felt she deserved a mention amongst these incredible women who've since passed away.
We're here. We're queer. Now that it's pride month, it feels like every store and corporation is flooding us with their best rainbow merchandise, capitalizing on a $917 billion dollar consumer market.
The rainbow flags are out. The mannequins are sporting pride tees. And corporate newsletters are full of interviews showcasing all their queer employees ("Look, we have a gay person here! We GET you!").
To me, this is blatant evidence that the future is queer.
These corporations follow the money, and with 20% of millennials and 31% of Gen Z openly identifying as queer, these businesses have to capitalize on the growing purchasing power of LGBTQIA+ consumers. With a recorded market size of $917 billion dollars in 2016, and a growing interest in socially conscious brands among young consumers, this is clearly a market opportunity that corporations cannot afford to ignore.
However, I'm always surprised by how little attention investors and the entrepreneurial community devotes to this undeniable trend, despite being constantly inundated with overwhelming statistics proving the importance of diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship. Only 2.2% of venture capital funding went to women in 2018, less than .1% of funding has been allocated to black women since 2009, and only about 1% of venture-backed companies have a black founder or Latinx founder. These statistics are over-quoted but underacted upon.
This gender and diversity inequality significantly hinders economic growth, since 85% of all consumer purchases are controlled by women, and startups with higher ethnic diversity tend to produce financial returns above their industry norm.
The data is clearly leading to one direction: investing in women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, veterans, immigrants, and other minority groups in entrepreneurship leads to higher revenue and better business results.
As data-driven and forward-thinking as this industry claims to be, we haven't caught up to the queer founders, particularly queer women, who are rethinking the future. These founders understand and speak to a generation of increasing numbers of LGBTQIA+ people whose market share will only continue to grow exponentially. VCs and investors are already behind the curve.
SoGal Foundation, a non-profit on a mission to close the diversity gap in entrepreneurship, is helping bridge this divide between queer women founders and investors with the launch of applications for the second annual Global Pitch Competition for diverse entrepreneurs. Hosted in 25+ cities across five continents, and culminating in a final global pitch competition and 3-day immersive educational bootcamp in Silicon Valley, this is the first and only globally-focused pitch opportunity for diverse entrepreneurs.
Startups that are pre-Series A (raised less than $3M) with at least one woman or diverse founder, apply here to pitch! The top teams selected from each regional round will join SoGal's final global pitch competition and bootcamp in Silicon Valley for guaranteed face time with dozens of top Silicon Valley investors, curated educational programming, unparalleled 1:1 mentorship, press exposure, and a chance to win investment capital.
Women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ founders: what's the best way to kick off pride? Apply to pitch!
Regional pitch rounds will be held August-November 2019; final pitch competition in Silicon Valley in February 2020. Details and additional cities to be announced.
SoGal Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and the largest global platform for diverse founders and funders in 40+ chapters across 5 continents; our mission is to close the diversity gap in entrepreneurship. SoGal Foundation's global startup competition represents the first and largest opportunity for women and diverse entrepreneurs and investors to connect worldwide. Join the SoGal community & follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.