The nature of women’s role in warfare has changed dramatically over the last one hundred years. The part played by women was small in the West until the First World War, when the demands of sustaining warfare between industrial powers were so high that the authorities had no choice but to recruit women into factory production and medical support.
But over time, there was a drive to include women in more front line military roles. Women had just as much of a right to fight and die in service of their country as men – or so the reasoning went – and military academies began opening up to women, with many accepting female entrants from 1975 onwards.
True equality in the military took a long time to achieve, however. It wasn’t until December 2015 that secretary of defense, Ashton Carter announced that women would be able to apply for any position in the military, irrespective of their gender.
It was a bold move but too late in the opinion of many. What’s more, it was sad that the government which imposes strict gender equality regulations on the private sector didn’t have its own house in order. The state actively discriminated against women on account of their gender, under the guise of military combat need.
The following infographic shows the evolution of the role of women in warfare. From humble beginnings in the First World War, women have seen the scope of their involvement in armed conflict rise enormously. There are now more than 86,000 female army service members.
Infographic by Norwich University