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Black History Month - Women Who Made Military History

Cathay Williams

1866: First black female to enlist in the Army

Williams enlisted in the Army using the name William Cathay, Nov. 15, 1866. She informed her recruiting officer that she was a 22-year-old cook. He described her as 5' 9", with black eyes, black hair and black complexion. An Army surgeon examined Cathay and determined the recruit was fit for duty, thus sealing her fate in history as the first documented black woman to enlist in the Army even though U.S. Army regulations forbade the enlistment of women. She was assigned to the 38th U.S. Infantry and traveled throughout the West with her unit.

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