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Nothing screams girl power quite like a woman serving the United States of America. According to the US Department of Defense, more than 200,000 women actively serve in the US Military; that is nearly 15 percent of the total 1.4 million men and women currently active. Since 2013, women have been granted the opportunity to serve our country in 90 percent of the military occupations offered to men, which is a massive stride for women since their initial involvement in the 18th century.
Today, women are heavily represented in the medical and administrative fields—46 percent of officers in the Navy's medical field are female. Currently, only 2.7 percent of Americans serving on front-line duty are female, but if a woman wanted to serve her country in the 1700s her responsibilities were limited to doing laundry, preparing meals, and sewing uniforms (with the exception of those who disguised themselves as men to fight).
Let's review the barriers broken by military women in the last 200+ years and congratulate them on their incredible progress that has allowed us to showcase the tattooed female veterans in the gallery that follows.
During the American Revolution, most women were nurses and responsible for doing the laundry, cooking, and sewing. Very few women managed to serve in combat.
Dr. Mary Edwards Walker was named the first female surgeon to take care of wounded service members in the Union Army. She is the only woman to receive the Medal of Honor for her service.
The Army Nurse Corps was established. The Navy Nurse Corps was established in 1908.
World War I offered women the opportunity to enlist and serve as draftsmen, interpreters, couriers, and translators for the Navy. In 1918, the Navy accepted Opha Mae Johnson as the first woman enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve.
In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt formed the Women's Army Corps (WAC) and Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVEs). In 1943, more than 76,000 women enlisted in the WAC and had full military status. By 1948, the Women's Armed Services Integration Act allowed women to serve in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. (Woo!)
Marine Corps Master Sgt. Barbara Jean Dulinsky was the first-ever female to serve in a combat zone in Vietnam.
In the fall of 1976, women were allowed to enroll in military academies thanks to President Gerald R. Ford. In 1977, the US Coast Guard assigned coed crews for the first time.
Air Force Major Susan Helms (she would end her career as a Lieutenant General) became the first US Military woman in space in 1993 (she currently holds a world record for longest spacewalk of 8 hours and 56 minutes, set in 2001). 1994 granted women the opportunity to enlist in 80 percent of military positions.
Marine Corps Captain Vernice Armour is named the first female African-American pilot in the Marine Corps. She was also the first woman in Defense Department history to fly combat missions in Iraq.
The first all-female US Marine Corps team conducts its first mission in Southern Afghanistan. In 2010, women for the first time ever can be assigned to Navy submarines.
Former Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta permits women to serve in direct combat roles.
After 238 years of Navy history, Michelle Janine Howard became the first woman to earn the rank of four-star admiral (the highest rank to be achieved in the US Navy).
Today, 68,900 women actively serve the Army; 58,500 women actively serve the Air Force; 57,300 women actively serve the Navy; and 14,100 women actively serve the Marine Corps.