Women have at least three kinds of power: Dollar Power, to boycott with; Vote Power, to take over structures with, and maybe even get somebody elected; and Body Power, to get out and support our friends and make a damned nuisance of ourselves with everybody else.
On Nov. 15, 1866, Cathay Williams enlisted in the Army using the name William Cathay. 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. During her service, she was hospitalized at least five times, but no one discovered she was a female. After less than two years of service, Cathay was given a disability discharge but little is known of the exact medical reasons.
Cathay Williams, First black female to enlist in the Army
Photo from AllensCreations.com
If anyone should ask a Negro woman in America what has been her greatest achievement, her honest answer would be, “I survived”
—Pauli Murray - 1970