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Beyond Rosie: Women in Wartime

Women are often the unsung heroes during war, especially prior to World War I. (It was during that conflict they were finally permitted to enlist.) Because they often serve in unofficial, unrecognized capacities, documentation for women in wartime can be difficult (even impossible) to locate. Still, no official record doesn’t equal no service!

WWII Women's Army Corps recruitment poster, an example of women in wartime.
Women’s Army Corps recruitment poster used during WWII. (Library of Congress)

As with any female ancestor research, sometimes it takes a little thinking outside the box to discover a wartime connection. Perhaps your relative aided the United States Sanitary Commission during the Civil War, or maybe she worked in a factory during World War II. Records such as meeting minutes or employment documents may be available for research. A great place to start is your local library.

From nurses to abolitionists to test pilots, here are some of the many ways women aided in the major U.S. conflicts of the past. Was your female ancestor among them?

Revolutionary War Civil War World War I World War II
Nurse Nurse Army Nurse Corps Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs, later renamed Women’s Army Corps)
Seamstress Matron (a woman who oversaw the “domesticity” of a hospital and its patients; duties varied) Navy Nurse Corps Navy Women’s Reserve (WAVES)
Cook Cook Navy Yeowoman/”Yeomanette” Marine Corps Women’s Reserve
Maid Laundress Women’s Land Army (Britain) Coast Guard Women’s Reserve
Laundress Vivandière (a daughter or wife of an officer who aided military camps in a semi-official capacity) Clerical (various) Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS)
Water-bearer Solider Switchboard operator Army Nurse Corps
Supply scavenger Spy Clerk Navy Nurse Corps
Matross (person who loads and fires cannons) Scout Typist Women’s Land Army (Britain)
Soldier Arsenal factory worker Stenographer Code breaker
Spy Ladies’ Aid Society member Translator Clerical (various)
Political activist United States Sanitary Commission member Canteen hostess Truck driver
Underground railroad conductor Ammunition tester Airplane mechanic
Abolitionist Stock taker Laboratory technician
Salvation Army volunteer Parachute rigger
Red Cross volunteer Radio operator
Ambulance driver Photograph analyzer
Pilot/test pilot

This list is by no means meant to be exhaustive. It is, however, fascinating to see how the list of roles grows longer with each major conflict. So yes, women have played—and continue to play—an enormous role in serving our country. “We can do it!” because we always have, and always will.

Women in Wartime Research Resources

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Courtney Henderson is the online editor at Family Tree. is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. It provides a means for this site to earn advertising fees, by advertising and linking to Amazon and affiliated websites.

The post Beyond Rosie: Women in Wartime appeared first on Family Tree.

Source: Family Tree

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