After celebrating all veterans on Veterans Day, we first take a moment to explore the origins and continued expansion of Women Veterans Day. Often confused as merely a day of showing appreciation for female veterans, this celebration actually commemorates a monumental legislative change for female service members. On June 12, 1948, now commemorated as Women Veterans Day, President Harry S. Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, allowing women to serve as regular members of the military.
While President Truman’s actions paved the way for modern servicewomen, it was far from the first time women had worn an American service uniform. During the Revolutionary war, women served in disguise or filled unofficial support roles mending clothes and tending to the wounded. In 1901, women took on more formal service roles with the creation of the Army Nurse Corps. Women were not allowed to vote, but they could openly serve their country in uniform. Later, World War II opened hundreds of thousands of non-combat roles for women in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. It was during this period that the first female lawyer was appointed to the Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps in 1944; however, she was denied access to the Army JAG school attended by her male counterparts.
After a difficult road, including discharging the majority of service women after World War II, the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act was signed, ensuring women could thereafter serve as regular service military members. Since then, the military has made real strides for service women. These changes were in part due to the work of the Women’s Initiative Team (WIT), who argued successfully for historic policy changes like maternity flight uniforms, race and gender considerate appearance standards, extended parental leave, and reimbursement of nursing mothers under official travel orders. In 2013, female service members saw two historic steps as women across the services gained access to combat roles and the Army appointed the first female Judge Advocate General (the General Officer overseeing all Army attorneys).
Today, 75 years after the signing of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act on June 12, 1948, states throughout the country recognize this historic step, celebrating Women Veterans Day, Women Veterans Recognition Day, or Women Appreciation Veterans Day. Other states, including Colorado, recognize this day of remembrance at county and city levels. In 2023, three veteran service women serving in the United States Congress were joined by representatives from Colorado and across the country to introduce a federal resolution designating June 12th as Women Veterans Appreciation Day. The resolution aims to raise awareness and support for the unique needs, contributions, and sacrifices of women veterans in service of the United States.
Captain Anna Sturges is an active-duty Air Force judge advocate and a CWBA member. Stationed at Buckley Space Force Base in Aurora, Anna serves as a senior defense counsel, litigating courts martial (military criminal trials) at Air and Space Force bases across the country. She is passionate about hiking and exploring Colorado with her husband and three dogs.