On a regular basis, readers will write in saying their family, friends, or colleagues are convinced women aren’t fit for combat.
Which drives me fucking insane, because women have been doing this for literally all of recorded history. So here’s a (totally non-comprehensive) list of women in combat roles going back to 1500 BCE. If someone starts on a “women can’t be in the military” rant, print this list out and start hitting them with it until they stop moving.
Some ground rules:
History is goddamn difficult. The texts we rely on are flakey, the historians imperfect, and the farther back you go, the more riddled with inaccuracies it can get.
I’m focusing on women in combat, not spies or people in command roles. Exceptions being leaders who went into combat.
I’m not a historian. I just read a lot. Most of y’all know this, but hey.
I haven’t done extensive research on most of these people; most of this is yanked from my to-research list.
Any number of these may be future Rejected Princesses.
The most recent I’m willing to get on this is World War II – but if you can’t find examples of women in combat post-WW2, seek help.
This will be updated here and there and will be linked in the FAQ.
I’ve been reading tweets and stuff about the possibility of women joining the draft, and it’s amazing what a different tune many are singing now that it’s a real possibility :( And then I came across this screenshot, and I swear, without the threat of going to war and watching their friends die in front of them, maybe a lot of people don’t have a clue what the draft means, and maybe making it a reality for them is the only way they’ll actually do something about it (like that’ll happen).
Except then I see tweets like this
And I’m reminded that no, people won’t be more eager to abolish the draft for everyone, men are still disposable. They can’t rise above their programming.
“MAKERS features NASA’s first female military scientist and space shuttle commander, Cady Coleman in their MAKERS Monday newsletter. Get to know her and how she became fascinated with space exploration!”
“Two female soldiers will graduate from the Army’s grueling Ranger School on Friday, becoming the first women to ever complete what is considered one of the U.S. military’s most difficult and premier courses to develop elite fighters and leaders, a senior Army official said.
The accomplishment marks a major breakthrough for women in the armed services at a time when each of the military branches is required to examine how to integrate women into jobs like infantryman in which they have never been allowed to serve. But even as the two new female graduates will be the first women allowed to wear the prestigious Ranger Tab on their uniforms, they still are not allowed to try out for the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, a Special Operations force that remains closed to women and has its own separate, exhausting requirements and training. [One step forward, one step …. - PF]
The women will receive the Ranger Tab alongside dozens of male service members in a ceremony at Fort Benning, Ga., the home of Ranger School’s headquarters, a senior Army official said Monday night. The official spoke on condition of anonymity while the Army finalized a news release.
The event is expected to draw not only family and friends, but hundreds of well-wishers and media from across the country. The female graduates are expected to speak to the media for the first time Thursday alongside instructors and other soldiers at Ranger School.
The women have not been identified by the Army, but both are officers and graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., Army officials said. The female graduates started Ranger School on April 20 alongside 380 men and 17 other female soldiers in the first class to ever include women. The female soldiers were allowed into Ranger School as part of the Army’s ongoing assessment of how to better integrate women.”
A group of female pilots known as the Women Air Force Service Pilots (or WASPs) were part of a special program during WWII running from 1942 to 1944. In 1977, the WASPs were officially given veteran status and in 2002, WASPs were legally allowed to have their ashes placed in Arlington.
But earlier this year, then-Secretary of the Army John McHugh reversed the ruling and made WASPs ineligible to be buried in Arlington.
Source: Philadelphia Eagles From 2007-2010, Eagles cheerleader Rachel Washburn stood on the Eagles sidelines watching all of the different battles play out between the white lines at Lincoln Financial Field. Just a few years later, Rachel was no longer standing outside the lines. She had traded in her midnight green Vera Wang-designed cheerleader uniform for army fatigues. Rachel left Philadelphia to serve in Afghanistan as a member of the United States Army. Tonight, 1st Lt. Rachel Washburn will return to Lincoln Financial Field and be honored as the Eagles “Hometown Hero.”
Rachel’s story can be traced back to her father, Lon, a military man through and through. Having spent time as a pilot in the Army and Air Force, Lon says that he has moved 17 different times since joining the military out of high school. At least a dozen of those times came after Rachel’s birth. Even with having to move around so often, Rachel gained a level of respect for her father’s career.
“I’m from a little bit of everywhere,” Rachel said. “I definitely didn’t mind the military lifestyle as far as moving. I always thought that my dad had a pretty cool job and that certainly helped push me in that direction.”
When it came time for Rachel to start looking at colleges, it became clear that she had one city on her mind. Rachel wanted to be in Philadelphia, even though she had never lived there. Drexel University was her number one choice.
“She really, really wanted to live in Philadelphia,” Lon said. “She’s a serious history buff. She had visited there and had done some other things with her high school class out in the eastern Pennsylvania area, so she applied for the ROTC scholarship, and she ended up getting quite a lucrative scholarship.”
Lon admitted trying to talking Rachel out of it – not the military, just the branch of service.
“She had an offer for an Air Force ROTC scholarship at Ohio State, and I thought she’d go to the Air Force, but you can tell by the job that she did in the Army that she is pretty ambitious and doesn’t like mainstream stuff,” Lon said. “The challenge of being able to do the things in the Army that she couldn’t have done in the other branches or in civilian life is really what intrigued her.”
“I thought, ‘Oh, I like camping and I like athletic things,’” Rachel said. “With that very naïve outlook of what ROTC was, I went ahead and applied for the scholarship, received it and it turned out to be one of the best decisions that I had ever made.”
Growing up, Rachel had been a gymnast, and after arriving at Drexel in 2006, she decided to join the dance team. Hearing that one of her friends had become a 76ers cheerleader, Rachel decided to take a stab at the “big leagues.” She tried out for the Eagles Cheerleaders squad, despite having never taken a cheer lesson in her life.
Rachel served as an Eagles cheerleader throughout her time at Drexel. While on the squad, she spent time visiting VA hospitals around the Philadelphia area and was also able to travel to Iraq on a USO tour, something that she called one of the greatest honors of her life. According to Rachel, trips like these demonstrate how much more goes into being a cheerleader than the casual fan realizes.
“That’s something that I always try to verbalize because the women I worked with at the Eagles were some of the most talented and most intelligent people that I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing,” said Rachel. “We’re all beautiful women who are there to be entertaining at games, but also, we are incredibly involved in the community, which is something that I am incredibly proud of, and I’m sure that all of the other girls feel the same way. I’m really proud of the Eagles organization putting us out there in that sort of capacity.”
After graduation, Rachel soon became a member of the Army’s Cultural Support team. It was a new operation that suited her perfectly.
“The Cultural Support Team was an initiative created by the military to fulfill a tactical gap in Afghanistan, given the cultural restrictions,” Rachel explained. “The Special Operations operators are not able to engage the female population, so they recruited females in the military to fill that gap. We could be their voice during missions for engagement to ensure security on objectives, and we could help search and secure the females and the children during missions.”
Since joining the military out of college, Rachel has had a highly decorated career. At the age of 25, she has already been awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal and the Combat, Airborne and Air Assault Badges. She also helped deliver a baby during a snow storm, taking instructions from military medics via radio.
Though many other military members were surprised to find out that Rachel had been a cheerleader, she explained that her time spent as a cheerleader helped her out a great amount during her Army training.
“I remember my first game incredibly vividly,” Rachel said. “When I was going through the Cultural Support Team training, we had to do mental toughness training every couple of days. One of the things that they taught us was how to kind tune into your happy place to remain mentally calm in stressful situations. My happy place just so happened to be what I remember my first game being like. We lined up in the end zones for the pre-game dance, and I just remember it being a beautiful August day, so that memory has always stuck with me, and of course the trip to Iraq was one of the greatest honors of my life, and I think back on it fondly often.”
That feeling of admiration that Rachel has for the Eagles has also been reciprocated by the organization.
“Rachel really is the epitome of an American hero, which is why we are looking forward to Sunday night’s game when we will have the opportunity to acknowledge her bravery and thank her for the sacrifices she has made to serve and protect,” said Barbara Zaun, the Eagles’ director of cheerleading. “It will be very special for me to see her honored as our Hometown Hero after working so closely with her during her time as a cheerleader.”
After two tours of duty in Afghanistan, Rachel is now stationed in Fort Stewart, Ga., serving as a platoon leader. Rachel was nominated by her father for the “Hometown Hero” honor.
“I thought it was a really interesting story because she was a cheerleader, and as a cheerleader she had a sense of duty to reach out to the VA hospitals and the military bases and do the USO tour, all of the stuff associated with the military,” said Lon, who admitted the two tours were the most difficult times of his life as a father. “I watched her go through two tours in Afghanistan and all of the things that she sacrificed. It was not a very easy couple of tours and I just really kind of thought, ’Man, what a homecoming that would be if they recognized her for that.’
“All of my kids are extremely talented and I’m so proud of them, but there’s something about Rachel that we noticed from an early age. She always just kind of had a restlessness about her, that there was something else to do. She would wake up in the morning and she would have a plan, and she always had to be doing something. There’s something about her nature, and people who have gotten to know her pretty well will attest to that. She’s very much a driven person, and I think she’s driven by virtue, and I don’t know if I can put my finger on what that is, but she has an extremely good heart and an extremely strong ambition to do what’s right.”
Rachel was not born in Philadelphia. She chose to make this city her home. She committed herself to the Eagles and then to her country. Tonight’s “Hometown Hero” celebration will allow Rachel to know that the Eagles and the City of Philadelphia truly recognize and appreciate her as one of their own.
“The hometown part was really interesting, because she’s kind of from everywhere, but she calls Philadelphia her home, and she chose Philadelphia to call home,” her father said. “Even on her military paperwork and whenever people ask her where she’s from, she says the same thing every time. She says ‘I’m kind of a military brat and I’ve lived all over, but I call Philadelphia home.’”
“I’m incredibly excited and humbled by it,” Rachel explained. “I always thought that was such a wonderful thing that the Eagles did – that every game they chose somebody to showcase what they had done for every single person in that stadium.
“I’m so honored because I call Philadelphia home, I love the Eagles so much and I’m just excited to be home in Philadelphia and watch the Eagles win.”