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Notable Military Heroines

By Sean Doorly

Since the birth of the United States, women have made great contributions to the military. Discover who was the first female to lead troops into battle, the first female shuttle pilot, a spying chef and more. Take the quiz, and get the facts on these women and their heroic battlefield sisters.

1. Rosie the Riveter was made famous during what war?
Civil War
World War I
World War II

During World War II, nearly 6 million American women responded to the government's call to enter the war-production industry. Rosie the Riveter was a popular poster, which encouraged women to join the workforce, and help build planes, bombs and tanks.

2. Lt. Kendra Williams was the first female pilot to drop bombs and launch missiles during combat. What plane did she fly?

Williams was one of 18 pilots in the "Gunslingers" F-18 squadron out of Jacksonville, Fla. She flew one of 30 single-seat fighter jets in the first wave of air strikes during Operation Desert Fox, in 1988. She remarked on her notoriety, "I was just doing my job."

3. How did Mary Hays McCauly earn the nickname "Molly Pitcher"?

She pitched in and helped soldiers set up their tents
She brought pitchers of water to soldiers on the battlefield
She had a high-pitched voice
She brought pitch -- a type of gunpowder -- to soldiers on the battlefield

McCauly earned her nickname "Molly Pitcher" at the battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778. It was a blistering hot day, and McCauly brought pitchers of cool water to the thirsty men. The water also cooled the hot guns. She also helped operate a gun when her husband, William Hays, fell in battle. Gen. George Washington personally issued her a warrant as a noncommissioned officer, in appreciation for her heroic efforts.

4. Which '60s president signed Public Law 90-130, which removed the legal restriction on promotions in the military?

President John F. Kennedy
President Lyndon B. Johnson
President George Washington
President Jimmy Carter

Johnson signed Public Law 90-130 on Nov. 8, 1967. Johnson declared, "There's no reason why we should not someday have a female chief of staff or even a female commander in chief." The Army promoted the first women to brigadier general on June 11, 1970-- Anna Mae Hays, Chief of the Army Nurse Corps, and Elizabeth P. Hoisington, Women's Army Corps Director.

5. In the '80s, Capt. Linda Bray became the first female to lead U.S. troops in battle. Where did the battle take place?


Bray became the first female to lead U.S. troops in battle during the invasion of Panama, in 1989. Bray commanded the 988th Military Police Company, and she ordered her team to fire on soldie rs of the Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF). The battle turned into a three-hour firefight -- three PDF soldiers were killed, and one was taken prisoner.

6. Which famous chef worked for the OSS -- a forerunner to the CIA?
Julia Child
Nigela Lawson
Rachel Ray
Marie Callendar

"French Chef" Julia McWilliams Child wanted to join the Navy in World War II but was turned down because she was too tall. Child therefore accepted a job with a U.S. spy agency -- the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). While in the OSS, she created a shark repellent for the Navy. NASA used her recipe to protect astronauts when they splashed down in shark-infested waters.

7. Who became the first woman pilot of a space shuttle?
Lt. Kendra Williams
Lt. Col. Eileen M. Collins
Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris
Lt. Col Colleen Nevius

In 1995, Collins became the first woman pilot of a space shuttle -- the Discovery.

8. Which escaped slave was also a Union spy?
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Tubman
Eliza Harris
Fredericka Douglas

Harriet Tubman was famous for being a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad-- a system that helped slaves escape to the North. Tubman was also an important Union spy and scout during the Civil War. She was able to move freely through rebel territory, and provide valuable information to Col. James Montgomery of the Second Carolina Volunteers.

9. What year did the first women graduate from U.S. military academies?

President Gerald Ford signed Public Law 94-106 admitting women to military academies in 1976. That fall, more than 300 women enrolled in U.S. military academies. The first batch graduated four years later, in 1980.

10. Who was the only woman ever awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor?
Hellen Keller
Florence Nightingale
Mary Foster
Mary Walker

After the Civil War ended, President Andrew Johnson awarded Dr. Mary Walker the Congressional Medal of Honor. Her citation reads, in part, "Walker has devoted herself with much patriotic zeal to the sick and wounded soldiers, both in the field and hospitals, to the detriment of her own health, and has also endured hardships as a prisoner of war for four months in a southern prison while acting as contract surgeon."