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.
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.