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Leadership and rank and file of the naval aviation community were familiar with this past reputation. At the conclusion of the 1991 conference, reports surfaced within the Navy that women had been harassed and received unwanted physical attention. Ultimately it was recorded that at least 26 women, 14 of whom were military officers, had been harassed or assaulted by male officers in attendance. Initial reports of alleged harassment and assault was met, at best, with a mixed response. (64:19) Lieutenant Paula Coughlin While at the 1991 convention, Lieutenant Paula Coughlin, a naval aviator, and at the time an Admiral’s aide, had immediately reported the harassment that she had experienced to her chain of command in general terms. The morning after her assault and harassment she informed her admiral at an early morning breakfast. She brought another lieutenant to the breakfast meeting who witnessed this report. (19:47) The admiral’s first response was one of apparent indifference and he neglected to follow-up. (64:18-19) Instead of letting the matter go inadequately addressed, Lieutenant Coughlin later decided to go public with the facts about the sexual harassment and the general gender abuse in the Navy. Her courageous decision and perseverance led to congressional hearings, the resignation of the Secretary of Navy, and an indepth Pentagon investigation.
Also at the congressional hearings, General Holm and former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, Jr. agreed in their separate statements that a key underlying factor in eliminating sexual harassment would be to remove the restriction on women in all parts of the Service, including combat. (64:4-6) Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy In 1997, at age 49, Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy became the Army’s first female three-star general and the highest-ranking woman ever in the Army, overseeing 45,000 soldiers worldwide. Yet position, rank, power, and respect did not insulate her from the cultural problem of sexual harassment. In 1999, she filed a sexual harassment complaint through her military chain of command against another Army general. (29) Kennedy filed the report of inappropriate physical contact by another general of similar rank based on an event that occurred in her office three years prior. It took great courage to bring this sort of publicity to herself at the pinnacle of her very illustrious military career. She felt she had to go on record, since the alleged harasser was given orders to head up the Army’s deputy inspector general post, a position that would supervise investigations of sexual harassment and gender discrimination complaints. (28) (29) (30)
Women soldiers of the American Civil War:
Ahead of our times It is generally accepted that the Civil War was a man's fight. Images of women during that conflict center on self-sacrificing nurses, romantic spies, or brave ladies maintaining the home front in the absence of their men. The men, of course, marched off to war, lived in germ-ridden camps, engaged in heinous battle, languished in appalling prison camps, and died horribly, yet heroically. This conventional picture of gender roles during the Civil War does not tell the entire story. Men were not the only ones to fight that war. Women also bore arms and charged into battle, some in positions of leadership. Like the men, there were women who lived in camps, suffered in prisons, and died for their respective causes. (25) Both the Union and Confederate armies forbade the enlistment of women. Women soldiers of the Civil War therefore assumed masculine names, disguised themselves as men, and hid the fact they were female. Because they passed as men, it is impossible to know with any certainty how many women soldiers served in the Civil War. Estimates place as many as 250 women in the ranks of the Confederate army. (25) Records from the Adjutant General Officer (AGO) show that Sarah Edmonds, a Canadian by birth, assumed the alias of Franklin Thompson and enlisted as a private in the Second Michigan Infantry in Detroit on May 25, 1861. Her duties while in the Union army included regimental Women's History Month 2001: Inspiring Stories of Vision and Courage 19 nurse and mail and dispatch carrier. Her regiment participated in the Peninsula campaign and the battles of First Manassas, Fredericksburg, and Antietam. On April 19, 1863, Edmonds deserted because she acquired malaria, and she feared that hospitalization would reveal her gender. In 1886 she received a government pension based upon her military service. A letter from the secretary of war, dated June 30 of that year, acknowledged her as: “A female soldier who..
served as a private.. rendering faithful service in the ranks.” (25) AGO records also reveal that on August 3, 1862, a 19-year-old Irish immigrant named Albert D. J. Cashier, enlisted in the Ninety-Fifth Illinois Infantry. Cashier served steadily until August 17, 1865, when the regiment was mustered out of the Federal army. Cashier participated in approximately 40 battles and skirmishes in those long, hard four years. After the war, Cashier worked as a laborer, eventually drew a pension, and finally went to live in the Quincy, Illinois, Soldiers' Home. In 1913 a surgeon at the home discovered that Albert D. J. Cashier was a woman. None of Cashier's former comrades-in-arms ever suspected that he was a she.
Apparently, neither did the commandant at the Soldiers' Home. A deposition from a fellow soldier taken in 1915 revealed that her deception was quite complete. (25) When the Civil War broke out, the Army had no ambulance corps, no field hospitals, no nursing corps, and few surgeons. In June 1861, the Secretary of War appointed Dorothea Lynde Dix as Superintendent of the female nurses of the Union Army. Dix recruited nurses, established an Army Nurse Corps, assigned nurses to military hospitals, and disbursed supplies. In August 1861, Congress authorized the employment of women nurses in military hospitals, paying them $12 a month and a daily ration to serve for six months or the war’s duration. The nurses were given an administrative rank equivalent to surgeon but no military rank. By the end of the war, Dix had placed 6,000 nurses in military hospitals and on the battlefields. (4:16) The record of Civil War nurses provides one of the finest examples of dedication, organizational ability, and simple courage to be found in American military history. Largely through their efforts, Army patient care took a quantum leap forward. (11:8) For the most part, women Civil War soldiers were recognized after they had received serious wounds or died. Mary Galloway was wounded in the chest during the Battle of Antietam. Clara Barton discovered Galloway’s true gender while treating her chest wound. She was sent home after recuperation. One anonymous woman wearing the uniform of a Confederate private was found dead on the Gettysburg battlefield on July 17, 1863, by a burial detail from the Union Corps. Based on the location of the body, it is likely the Southern woman died participating in Pickett's charge. In 1934, a gravesite found on the outskirts of Shiloh National Military Park revealed the bones of nine Union soldiers. Further investigation indicated that one of the skeletons, with a rifle shot by the remains, was female. (25) Some soldiers were revealed as women after getting captured. Frances Hook is a good example. She and her brother, orphans, enlisted together early in the war. Even though her brother was killed in action at Pittsburgh Landing, Hook continued service, probably in an Illinois infantry regiment, under the alias Frank Miller. In early 1864, Confederates captured her near Florence, Alabama; she was shot in the thigh during a battle and left behind with other wounded, who were also captured. While imprisoned in Atlanta, her captors realized her gender.
After her exchange and discharge, she was sent North. Frances Hook later married, and in 1908 her daughter wrote the AGO seeking confirmation of her mother's military service. AGO clerks searched pertinent records and located documentation that proved her participation in the war.
(25) Women's History Month 2001: Inspiring Stories of Vision and Courage 20 One of the most colorful and enterprising characters of the period was Loreta Velasques.
Beautiful, well educated, and affluent, she had been born in Cuba, where her father was a diplomat. When her husband left for war, Loreta, over family objections, bought a Confederate uniform, glued on a moustache and chin beard, recruited a troop of soldiers, and set herself up as their commander under the name of Lieutenant Harry T. Buford. Before she was finally discovered, she had fought in a number of battles, including the First Battle of Bull Run, and had served a brief stint as a spy. After being wounded and revealed, Loreta enlisted as an infantryman but soon decided she would prefer being an officer on horseback and secured herself a commission in the cavalry. She led patrols into enemy territory and on many occasions demonstrated competence and courage, but after being badly wounded (again), was again revealed. (11:8) Herein lies the importance of the women combatants of the Civil War: it is not their individual exploits but the fact that they fought. Quite simply, the women in the ranks, both Union and Confederate, refused to stay in their socially mandated place, even if it meant resorting to deception to achieve their goal of being soldiers. They faced not only the guns of the adversary but also the sexual prejudices of their society. (25) The Civil War women soldiers merit recognition in modern American society because they were trailblazers. Women's service in the military is socially accepted today, yet modern women soldiers are still officially barred from direct combat. Since the Persian Gulf War, debate has raged over whether women are fit for combat, and the issue is still unresolved. The women soldiers of the Civil War were capable fighters, facing terrible field conditions. From a historical viewpoint, the women combatants of 1861 to 1865 were not just ahead of their time, they were ahead of our time. (25)
Throughout military history, they were the “invisible soldiers” (60:112) Women have served as nurses for and in the military of the United States since colonial days.
During the nation's wars, American military nurses have endured the same conditions as the male soldiers with whom they served. Nurses, like soldiers, have been killed by enemy fire, have been captured and endured the hardships of prisons of war, and have received extensive decorations for their valor. Although desperately needed in all the country's military conflicts, lessons learned about their value and experience in the field of battle were usually taken for granted or not addressed at all. A contributing factor to this was the unselfishness of nurses' training and that they made little attempt to draw attention to their service. This statement is as true of nurses of the Civil War period and Vietnam era as it is of World War I and II, and the Persian Gulf.
Still, by winning the struggle for integration and acceptance, female military nurses were in many ways the forerunners of today's women in the military. (60:73) When the past contributions of military nurses, the conditions in which they served, and their attitudes at the front and under fire are reviewed, one realizes that women have already handled every situation, and that the public can accept the circumstances in which its women are placed. Women military nurses have been in combat and can expect always to be in combat. (60:112) Similar to General Colin Powell’s sentiments expressed at the dedication of the Women's Vietnam Memorial Statue in Washington (see Diane Evans above), the following poem describes the added burden of combat that our nurses have had to endure.
Women's History Month 2001: Inspiring Stories of Vision and Courage 21 Mother and Son Cradled in her gentle arms a tender youth, far from home, hears the whisper faintly in his ear. “I'm here now, you're not alone.” Many times like this she held them close, as a mother would on a frightful night. Comforting her sons off to sleep, and nursing them till the morning light. His tears and blood still upon her breast, she notes the time upon his chart. And the bullet that took his life away, imbeds itself into her heart.
(20) The valor of military nurses is undeniable. Three military nurses have been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (a combat medal second only to the Medal of Honor) and 23 the Distinguished Service Medal (the highest noncombat award). (4:18) Hard on the heels of the WWI forces commanded by General John J. Pershing that landed in France in late June 1917, were contingents of Army nurses who arrived in time to care for the first battle casualties. These Army nurses, for the first time, had to treat soldiers badly wounded by new, more destructive types of weapons designed for killing in large numbers--machine guns, tanks, and poison gas--as well as conventional rifles, pistols, bayonets, and artillery. One especially horrible type of German shell released mustard gas over troops causing the most casualties. The effect of mustard gas did not become apparent for up to 12 hours, and it could be transferred by touch. It soon began to rot the body inside and out if inhaled. The skin blistered and the victim was racked with nausea and vomiting. The external and internal pain was excruciating beyond endurance, and Army nurses had to strap their patients to beds. Sometimes death took up to four or five weeks. (1:9) Among the first 60 American nurses to go overseas for World War I was Helen Fairchild.