A look back at the journey
1782: Deborah Sampson disguised herself as a man to fight in the Revolutionary War. She helped carry out scouting expeditions against British troops.
1812: During the War of 1812, Mary Marshall and Mary Allen served as nurses aboard the USS United States.
1846–1848: In the Mexican War, Elizabeth Newcom enlisted in the Missouri Volunteer Infantry as Bill Newcom and marched 600 miles to winter camp in Colorado before being discovered and discharged.
1861-1865: Annie Etheridge and other women served openly as battlefield medics in the Civil War. Dr. Mary Walker, a surgeon, was captured by Confederate forces after crossing enemy lines to treat wounded civilians and became the first woman to receive the Medal of Honor.
1917–1918: Women were allowed to join the military during last two years of World War I. More than 33,000 women served as nurses and support staff and more than 400 died in the line of duty.
1941–1945: More than 400,000 women served at home and abroad as mechanics, ambulance drivers, pilots, administrators, nurses, and in other noncombat roles in World War II. Eighty-eight women were captured and held as prisoners of war. The Army established the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps in 1942, which was converted to the Women's Army Corps in 1943.
1948: Congress passed the Women's Armed Services Integration Act, granting women permanent status in the military.
1950–1953: More than 50,000 women served during the Korean War at home and abroad, and 500 Army nurses served in combat zones. Three Air Force nurses were killed in plane crashes.
1962–1972: Over 7,000 women served in the Vietnam War, mostly as nurses, in five military branches. All were volunteers.
1973: The military draft for males ended and an all-volunteer military was formed, creating opportunities for women.
1976: The first women were admitted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, and the Air Force Academy.
1978: Women in the Navy and Marines were allowed to serve on noncombat ships as technicians, nurses, and officers.
1991–1992: During the Persian Gulf War, more than 41,000 women were deployed to the combat zone. Two were captured.
1991: Congress authorized women to fly combat missions.
1993: Congress authorized women to serve on combat ships.
1998: For the first time, a woman fighter pilot delivered a payload of missiles and bombs in combat. She was in the first wave of U.S. strikes against Iraq.
2000: Capt. Kathleen McGrath became the first woman to command a Navy warship.
2003: During the Iraq war, three Army women become POWs in the first days of the invasion.
2004: Col. Linda McTague became the first woman commander of an Air Force fighter squadron.
2005: Army Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester became the first woman awarded the Silver Star for combat action.
2008: Ann Dunwoody became the first four-star general in U.S. history.