Born on this date in 1920, Hays was the first woman in the U.S. Military to reach the rank of Brigadier General. She was a nurse who served in India during World War II and also saw service during the Korean War. She became chief of the Army Nurse Corps. Immediately after she was promoted to Brigadier General, in 1970, a second woman was also promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. (So Hays was first, but only by a minute!)
That second woman was Elizabeth Hoisington. She commanded Women's Army Corps units in France after D-Day and also in Japan and Germany; later she served in San Francisco and at the Pentagon.
Women in the Military
For more than 4,000 years, in many different cultures and nations, women have served various roles in the military. However, their participation in armed forces and especially in battle—and most especially in leadership positions—has usually been limited and/or controversial.
This is in the news now because the U. S. Military is finally formally accepting women in combat roles—although the separation between combat and non-combat roles has apparently long been hazy or even missing altogether.
By the way, some countries have had no restrictions on roles for women for years. For example, New Zealand has had no gender restrictions since 2001, and Sweden has had none since 1989!
If you are interested in some long-ago female military leaders, check out:
- the legendary Amazons,
- and Joan of Arc.
Also on this date: