Women's Equality Day: Military firsts

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  • By Staff Reports
  • 48th Fighter Wing
In honor of Women's Equality Day, consider these military women "firsts":

· The first to receive pensions for military service:
Deborah Samson, was granted a pension by the Massachussettes legislature in 1804 and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania awarded Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley a pension in 1822 of forty dollars a year "for services rendered" during the war.

During the Mexican War, Elizabeth Newcume, in male attire, was mustered into military service at Fort Leavenworth in September 1847. She served ten months and spent time fighting indians at Dodge City until her sex was discovered and she was discharged. It took a private act of Congress to pay Elizabeth Newcume who received a bounty land warrant for 160 acres and full payment for ten months service, plus three months extra pay, as provided in the 5th section of the act of July 19, 1848.

· The first to receive medals:
The first, and only, woman to receive the Medal of Honor was Dr. Mary Walker, a contract surgeon during the Civil War.

Col. Oveta Culp Hobby, the first Director of the WAC, was the first woman to receive the U.S. Army Distinguished Service Medal in 1945.

The first woman to receive the Purple Heart was Annie Fox while serving at Hickam Field during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

· The first to enlist:
Philadelphian Loretta Walsh enlisted in March 1917 and became the first Yeoman (F) in the Navy.

Sgt. Esther Blake is considered the "first woman in the Air Force" having enlisted in the first minute of the first hour of the first day the regular Air Force was authorized. This took place July 8, 1948, at Fort McPhearson, Ga., where Sergeant Blake was stationed as a member of the WAC. By enlisting in the Air Force she became the first WAF - which by the way stood for Women in the Air Force.
· The first to attain E-9 - the highest enlisted rank:

Air Force - Senior Master Sgt. Grace Peterson - 1960
Army - Sgt. Major Carolyn James - 1960
Navy - Master Chief Yeoman Anne Dervartanian - 1959
Marine Corps - Master Gunnery Sgt. Geraldine Moran - 1960
Coast Guard - Master Chief Yeoman Pearl Faurie - 1964

· The first to attain star rank:
Air Force - Brig. Gen. Jeanne Holm - 1971
Army - Brig. Gen. Elizabeth Hoisington - 1970
Navy - Rear Adm. Fran McKee - 1976 
Marines - Brig. Gen. Margaret Brewer - 1978