USMC Cpl. Gabrielle Green is not the first women to serve in the Marines, but the photo of her taken by Lynsey Addario and appearing in Addario’s article in the November 2019 issue of National Geographic certainly shows women breaking down barriers in the U.S. military — or perceptions, if nothing else.

“Marines have to be able to carry one another if necessary. USMC Cpl. Gabrielle Green hefts a fellow marine as they ready for deployment on a Navy ship at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Of the 38,000 recruits who enter the corps each year, about 3,500 are women— or, in USMC phrasing, ‘female marines,” per the article.

“I love that moment because she’s so tough,” Addario said of the photo. “It really speaks to one of the things that the Marine commanders often cite as a reason to not have women on the front lines — that if a male Marine was wounded, a woman couldn’t carry them out of battle. Obviously, that photo counters that very directly.”

Women have served in the military since the Revolutionary War, but according to the Council on Foreign Relations, women represented just two percent of the enlisted forces and eight percent of the officer corps when the draft ended in 1973. The numbers have risen to 16 percent and 18 percent respectively, now, and with the lifting of restrictions on the roles women can perform in the military, they may continue to grow.

We’re sure there are thousands and thousands of amazing badass women who have served or are serving, but courtesy of Military.com, here are 5 in particular who changed the course of military history.

Private Cathay Williams, aka William Cathay Post
Cathay Williams was born a slave near Jefferson City, Missouri, but she became the first known African American woman to serve in the United States Army. During the Civil War, 186,097 black men joined the Union Army, with 7,122 officers, and 178,975 enlisted soldiers. One of those enlisted soldiers was named “William Cathay” to hide the fact she was in fact a woman. “The regiment I joined wore the Zouave uniform and only two persons, a cousin and a particular friend, members of the regiment, knew that I was a woman,” Williams said, according to Army archives. “They were partly the cause of my joining the Army. Another reason was I wanted to make my own living and not be dependent on relations or friends.”


Private Opha May Johnson
In 1918, during World War I, Opha May Johnson became the first woman to enlist in the United States Marine Corps.
Like those radio contests who reward the first caller, Johnson happened to be the first of 300 women who were enlisting in the United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve on that day. Johnson’s first duties were as a clerk at Marine Corps headquarters, managing the records of other female reservists who joined after her.


Rear Admiral Grace Brewster Murray Hopper
Commodore “Amazing Grace” Hopper’s made her mark not just in the Navy but in high tech. A destroyer was named after her (USS Hopper, DDG-70), but so was the Cray XE6 “Hopper” supercomputer. As a founder of the COBOL programming language, a precursor to many of the software code approaches of today, her work is legendary among computer and math nerds alike. She even coined the phrase “bug in the computer” when she discovered a moth caught inside a Mark 1 computer she was trying to repair. She taped the moth in the repair log book which coined the now ubiquitous phrase. At the age of 76, Hopper was promoted to Commodore by special Presidential appointment and elevated to rear admiral in November 1985.

Col. Ruby Bradley World War II
Bradley survived World War II, the Korean War, a prison camp and near starvation, making her one of the most decorated women in U.S. military history. She received 34 medals and citations of bravery, including two Legion of Merit medals, two Bronze stars, two Presidential Emblems, the World War II Victory Medal and the U.N. Service Medal. She was also the recipient of the Florence Nightingale Medal, the Red Cross’ highest international honor. In 1941, Bradley was taken captive in the Philippines by Japanese forces. She and her fellow imprisoned nurses continued to care for their fellow prisoners, earning them the nickname “angels in fatigues.”

After three years in captivity subsisting mainly on meager rice rations, Bradley weighed only 84 pounds when the camp was finally liberated by Americans. After her release she continued serving in the Army Nurse Corps release and then served in the Korean War. She became only the third woman in U.S. history to be promoted to the rank of colonel.


Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester
Very badass Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester of the 617th Military Police Company was the first woman to receive the Silver Star since World War II for exceptional valor. In 2005 during the Iraq War, Hester’s squad was shadowing a supply convoy when anti-Iraqi fighters ambushed the convoy. Her squad moved to the side of the road, flanking the insurgents and cutting off their escape route. Per Military.com, Hester led her team through the “kill zone” and into a flanking position, where she assaulted a trench line with grenades and M203 grenade-launcher rounds. She and Staff Sgt. Timothy Nein, her squad leader, then cleared two trenches, at which time she killed three insurgents with her rifle. When the fight was over, 27 insurgents were dead, six were wounded, and one was captured.

Of her Silver Star Hester said, “It really doesn’t have anything to do with being a female. It’s about the duties I performed that day as a soldier.”

Damn straight GF. All of these women performed their duties as warfighters first. Oh yeah, they happened to be female, but we’re pretty sure they’d all say that’s beside the point.

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