Women at War
Since the creation of human's, women have never had the opportunity to be that a contributing factor in the starting or stopping of a war. Not even until recently, was it even convincing to hear of women working in a career field in the military that had the slightest chance of going into a combat zone. When you think about an image of war, what do you see? If you are like most, you see a battlefield that is filled with men fighting each other and in the distant background are the women.
In centuries past, men and women have had different responsibilities. It was up to the men to get the food and to protect the family while women were in charge of taking care of the household. Over time this old adage held true, but at the outbreak of World War I, there was a need for more manpower so women were being allowed into the military to serve in certain career fields.
During the buildup for the start of America's involvement in World War I, the military was trying to solve an emerging manpower crisis. In 1917, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels found a small loophole in the Naval recruiting regulations. He brought up the question of "Is there any regulation which specifies that a Navy yeoman be a man?" In no time at all, the Navy was enlisting women into such fields as clerks, radio electricians, chemists, accountants, telephone operators, and nurses. This move also got the Army to look at their own recruiting openings. When the Army began to recruit women, they decided to take a more conservative approach by allowing just nurses as well as a small number of occupational therapists and dieticians (Women were vital to military success in war).
Many other firsts came about as a result of World War I. This was the first time that both the Army and Navy nurse corps were activated. Physicals were being performed on all soldiers. So before they could be inducted, they had to be cleared as "fit for Service." Because of this, women could no longer disguise themselves as soldiers as many had done in wars in the past. And this was also the first time that women served in the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Army Surgical Corps openly.
Laura Frost Smith, a nurse during WW I, is the oldest known American veteran still living. World War I is a war that marked the first time that women were officially allowed to serve in the military. Mrs. Smith, unlike most of her colleagues, was able to survive and tell her story of her experience through the letters that she had wrote during the war and in a family memoir that she had written while in her 90's. Many of these stories tell a tale that is fearful to say the least.
"Do I look bad?" the soldier pleads. Half his face is gone.
Laura Frost hurriedly dresses the raw shreds that remain. There are still
men moaning on gurneys in the rain outside the operating tent.
Her hands shake from the chilling damp that seeps through the canvas