Women in the War
The need for trained medical personnel created new opportunities for women in the military. Women enlisted as nurses, dieticians, and physical and occupational therapy aides. The military hired women doctors on a contract basis only. Despite their professional training, women were denied military rank and veterans’ benefits. Nevertheless, women were eager to serve their country, and many welcomed the chance for travel and adventure. Congress did not grant all female medical veterans of World War I full veteran status until 1977.
Military medical personnel wore uniforms specific to their work. Women’s uniforms, newly designed for the war, echoed many traditional components of male military uniforms—caps, capes, jackets, insignia. Women typically had both an on-duty (“indoor”) and off-duty (“outdoor”) uniform, garnering them respect as military personnel, even without the benefit of defined rank. For many women, uniforms were a source of pride, representing their patriotism and willingness to serve.