Guest blog by Cathi Taylor, national history committee chairman
March is Women’s History Month and March 8th is International Women’s Day. It’s a time to celebrate the women in our lives as well as those who came before us.
One way I like to celebrate women is to read a book about them. This year, the selected book focuses on some of the least talked about women in American history, The Hello Girls: America’s First Women Soldiers.
It’s the story of 223 young women, out of the thousands who applied, who gave up everything, donned uniforms, took the Army oath, and sailed to France in hopes of helping the Allies win the war. Even though General John Pershing acknowledged that he could not win the war without them – and even after several of these women were awarded medals for their service, including the Distinguished Service Medal, the Army refused to recognize them as part of the military. The women did not receive veteran’s benefits. It wasn’t until 1979 that the Army signed discharge papers for these amazing women.
But they weren’t the only women who served. There were nurses on both sides of the “pond,” as the British would say, caring for sick, wounded, and disabled soldiers. Women stationed in Europe served food and drinks to the soldiers. While women were already working in textile mills prior to the war, they took over the manufacturing jobs after the men left to fight. There were those who volunteered numerous hours at home to help the cause.
And in their spare time, many of these same women were marching for the right to vote while others were striking for fair wages and fewer work hours!
Wherever they served, these are the women who came together and shaped the American Legion Auxiliary. They are the charter members of our units who knew this was the work they were chosen to do. Although the war was over, their work was not finished and would not be until the last soldier was cared for and the nation provided a “square deal” for all.
So, celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day. We have a lot to be proud of!