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Women have served in military conflicts since the American Revolution, but World War II was the first time that women served in the United States military in an official capacity. Although women traditionally were excluded from military service and their participation in the Armed Forces was not promoted at the outset of World War II, it soon became apparent that their participation was necessary to win the war.
Beginning in December 1941, 350,000 women served in the United States Armed Forces, during WWII. They had their own branches of services, including:
- Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (later the Women's Army Corps or WAC),
- the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), and
- the Women Accepted for Volunteer Military Services (WAVES).
Women also served in the Marines and in a branch of the Coast Guard called SPARS.
About seventy percent of women who served in the military during World War II held traditionally "female" jobs. They worked as typists, clerks, and mail sorters. Although these jobs may have been less glorified that those of the men fighting on the front lines, women were essential in maintaining the bureaucratic mechanisms that are necessary in warfare. Also, by filling office jobs that would otherwise be held by men, women freed more men to fight. Women were not permitted to participate in armed conflict but their duties often brought them close to the front lines. One way that women participated in dangerous work was through their work in the Army and Navy medical corps.
Several Minnesota women made great contributions to the U.S. war effort during World War II. 15 Minnesota women participated in WASPS. Pearl Gullickson from Donnely, Minnesota, served in the Coast Guard as a SPAR. Anne Bosanko Green took time off from her studies at the University of Minnesota and joined the WAC where she worked in a hospital as a surgical assistant.