The US Armed Forces were like an all-men exclusive organization where women could only take no more than nursing assignments. While that, of course, was an important role too, many women wanted to join the fight and be soldiers too. That did not happen until Loretta Perfectus Walsh was allowed to enlist in the Navy in 1917, during the conflict of World War I, making her the very first woman to (legally) serve in the armed forces.

Chief Petty Officer Loretta Perfectus Walsh (US Navy via AP)

Waking Up The Sleeping Dragon

When the First World War erupted, the United States did not intend to be part of the conflict until Germany announced that they would resume the expansion of their “unrestricted” submarine warfare campaign on all ships. By all, they meant the US was no exception, and they did just so after four different American ships were attacked by German U-boats, and resulted in the death of fifteen Americans. That, plus Germany’s covert attempt to entice Mexico into invading the United States too, angered the Americans. So even before Congress authorized President Wilson to declare war, many were already eager to take part in it, and they already lined up to enlist, including Walsh.

Yeomen (F)

If it weren’t for The Naval Reserve Act of 1916, women would not still be allowed in the Navy and other branches of the armed forces later on. As written by the Naval History and Heritage Command:

“The Naval Reserve Act of 1916 had conspicuously omitted mention of gender as a condition for service, leading to formal permission to begin enlisting women in mid-March 1917, shortly before the United States entered the ‘Great War.'”