How Much Do You Know About Famous Women in the Military?


By: Marie Hullett

7 Min Quiz

Image: DanielBendjy / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Although the U.S. military only permitted women to enlist in combat roles a mere six years ago, they've been slinging guns for centuries prior. Long before women were legally allowed to join the U.S. military, they disguised themselves as men and fought in combat, worked as armed spies and commanded whole armies.

In fact, the rich story of women in the military stretches far and wide. Evidence indicates that women have served in combat roles for virtually all of recorded history, from Ahhotep I of Ancient Egypt to Petra Herrera of the Mexican Revolution. 

For decades, women were depicted as doting, worried wives and mothers in times of warfare. History suggests, however, that they were just as likely to serve as spies, nurses and lieutenants. By the 1970s, most Western armies permitted women to serve in diverse active-duty roles across military branches. In 2013, Norway drafted women to the military, becoming the first NATO country to do so. Since then, Sweden and the Netherlands have also joined. These days, women can assume any military role, from fighter pilots that save the day to generals that devise strategies to rescue their troops amid even the most harrowing of circumstances. 

So, from Grace Hopper to Joan of Arc, how much do you know about famous women throughout military history? You'll have to take the following quiz to find out! 

A famous United States Navy rear admiral was among the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer. Do you know who she is?

Nicknamed "Amazing Grace," Grace Murray Hopper earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale University and worked as a professor of mathematics before enlisting in the Navy Reserves during World War II. Once there, she worked on the Bureau of Ordinance Computation Project, programmed the Harvard Mark I, invented one of the first linkers and made grand innovations on machine-independent programming languages. She's one of the few women admirals in U.S. Navy history.


While women disguised themselves as men in order to enlist for generations, do you know when women were officially allowed to enlist in the U.S. Army and Navy?

While women had served as nurses and illegally entered services for years, in 1917, Loretta Walsh became the first woman to oficially enlist in the U.S. military. In 1948, the government passed a law that made women a permanent part of the armed forces.


Now canonized as a Catholic saint, do you know the name of the French woman who played a heroic role in the Hundred Years' War?

Born in 1412, St. Jeanne d'Arc believed God instructed her to take the reigns of the French army and lead it to victory — and that she did. During the war's Lancastrian phase, Joan of Arc's leadership broke the siege in the city of Orleans in just nine days. Charles the Victorious then appointed her as a military adviser, which resulted in her leading the French army's capture of Reims and Troyes. The English eventually apprehended and executed her, but her legend lives on.


Can you name the first known woman to have enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1918?

During World War I, Johnson was first in the line of the more than 300 women who enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Women's Reserve. She worked as a clerk at Headquarters before being promoted to Sergeant in 1918, making her the highest-ranking women in the Corps during her time of service.


One of the following women served as a secret agent and guerilla fighter for the French resistance during World War II. Do you who it is?

New Zealand-born, Australia-raised Nancy Wake worked as a journalist before she married a Frenchman and moved to Marseille. When Germany invaded France, she joined the resistance, helping hide and smuggle men out of France, falsifying documents and importing contraband. She then joined Britain's Special Operations Executive (SOE) and trained with weapons and parachutes. The SOE then airdropped her in France, where she shot down Nazis, blew up buildings and killed an SS sentry with her bare hands.


Many people know that Harriet Tubman helped guide slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad. Do you know about her military involvement, though?

After escaping slavery in 1849, Harriet Tubman devoted herself to the Civil War effort, serving as a cook, nurse, spy and military leader. In fact, most view her as the first woman in U.S. history to lead a military expedition. One of her most dangerous feats involved helping Colonel James Montgomery successfully execute a raid to free slaves in South Carolina. Thanks to clandestine information she obtained and her shrewd leadership, their troop freed about 750 people.


Can you name the fearless Celtic woman who led the rebellion against the Roman Empire around A.D. 60?

Tired of the greed of the Roman Empire, Queen Boudicca became a warrior for the Celtic Iceni tribe in East Anglia. She led the Iceni to a momentous victory of the Legions of Rome in present-day Colchester and defeated and burned Londinium (present-day London). Her strength nearly caused Roman emperor Nero to leave Britain, but unfortunately, she died at an inopportune moment.


Which of these women is the only to ever serve as an official member of the French Foreign Legion?

English woman Susan Travers worked as a driver to Syria and North Africa for the French Free Forces. When Rommel's Afrika Corps besieged her unit, she refused to evacuate with the other women. They hid for 15 days until Travers staged a nighttime getaway. Driving the lead vehicle, she led 2,500 troops to safety amid machine gunfire. Afterward, the French Free Forces promoted her to General, and she served in Italy, Germany and France. She was then accepted to the French Foreign Legion and garnered several awards for her time in the First Indo-China War.


Can you name the first woman to ever receive a United States Air Medal?

Second Lieutenant Elsie Ott received the U.S. Air Medal for her courage and intellect in devising a plan to evacuate injured soldiers from the front line in India during World War II. Assigned the flight with only 24 hours' notice, Ott had zero previous flying experience and was equipped with only a first aid kit. She not only successfully rescued them, but she also treated them with help from her nursing background.


In 13th century B.C., one of the following women served as a military general and high priestess in China, ultimately commanding up to 13,000 troops. Who was she?

A wife of King Wu Ding of the Shang Dynasty, Lady Hao broke convention at the time by serving as a military general, ultimately becoming the most powerful Shang general of her time. The Tu-Fang fought against the Shang dynasty for generations before Hao finally defeated them in a single battle. She also campaigned against the Yi, Qiang and Ba, the last of which is known as the earliest large-scale ambush in Chinese history.


Which of these women is known for improving the Royal Navy's tactical approaches and marine vessels?

After her ascension to the throne in 1558, Queen Elizabeth I escaped the Catholic Church, which made her many enemies near and far. To combat external opposition, she enacted a number of vast improvements in marine combat in particular.


Can you guess how many women officially served in the U.S. military during World War II?

While often depicted as boosting morale on the home front, more than 400,000 women enlisted to serve in the U.S. military across the U.S., Europe and Asia during World War II. They worked as pilots, nurses, administrators and ambulance drivers in particular.


Do you know the name of the ancient queen who commanded a Persian naval fleet in the Battle of Salamis?

Queen of ancient Halicarnassus in 5th century B.C., Artemisia allied with Xerxes I and singlehandedly commanded the Persian naval fleet against the Greeks. She was widely praised for her tactical intelligence and natural leadership abilities.


Disguised as a man, this woman was known as Franklin Flint Thompson to fellow Union comrades during the American Civil War. Do you know her real name?

Born in Canada in 1841, Edmonds escaped a forced and abusive marriage by fleeing to Flint, Michigan in 1856. Out of a sense of duty, she joined the 2nd Michigan Infantry as a male field nurse. In addition to treating soldiers in some of the bloodiest battles like Antietam, many say she also served as a Union spy.


Can you guess which woman is one of the most decorated women in U.S. military history?

During her military service from 1934 through1963, Ruby Bradley earned 34 medals and citations of bravery. She joined the U.S. Army as a surgical nurse in 1934 but was taken captive by Japanese forces in 1941. During her four years in captivity, she continued to care for fellow prisoners, assisting in 230 major operations and 13 baby deliveries. Bradley also stole food to feed starving children and smuggled surgical equipment inside. She later served as Chief Nurse for the Eighth Army and was promoted to colonel in 1958.


One of these women is famous for her service as an agent of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) during World War II. Who was it?

Polish woman Krystyna Skarbek was living with her diplomat husband in Ethiopia at the onset of World War II. She then signed up with Britain's Section D in an attempt to return to Poland via Hungary and communicate with the Allies. Impressed by the plan of the "flaming Polish patriot," as they called her, the British intelligence agents agreed to her plan. She then organized several Polish resistance groups and smuggled Polish pilots out of the nation. When arrested by the Gestapo in 1941, she faked TB by biting her tongue until it bled. They released her.


Do you know which of these women has been nicknamed "Spy Princess" for her heroic efforts in World War II?

Khan's mother was an American woman related to the founder of Christian Science, her father was Indian Sufi master Inayat Khan and her great-great-grandfather ruled the Kingdom of Mysore. She was born in Russia but held a British passport. Khan joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and served as a wireless operator for the British intelligence agency SOE in 1943, refusing to quit even as other agents were imprisoned. The Germans eventually arrested her, though, and she fought back so intensely that they classified her as an "extremely dangerous prisoner." She escaped briefly but then was caught and executed.


Can you identify the Tamil woman who formed an army to combat British invaders in 1772?

Trained as a child to employ weapons, practice martial arts, and fight on horseback, Nachiyar was poised to fight when the British attacked her home kingdom, the Ramnad Kingdom of South India. She formed an army upon their 1772 arrival and indisputably defeated them by 1780. Historians say she's the first military leader to use a "human bomb" in combat.


Do you know who became the first woman to serve as the U.S. Army Surgeon General and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Medical Command?

Born in 1960, Horoho served as the 43rd Army Surgeon General and Commanding General of the Medical Command. In 1994, she served as the head nurse of the Womack Army Medical Center, treating wounded soldiers from the Green Ramp Disaster. In 2002, the American Red Cross recognized her as a Nurse Hero for her role during the September 11 attacks, in which she ran from her desk to provide first-aid to 75 people.


Do you know the name of the woman who holds the record for the most kills by any fighter pilot?

Litvak served as a Senior Lieutenant for the Soviet air force from 1941 to 1943, during which time she triumphed over German aircraft an estimated 12 times without any assistance. Nicknamed "The White Rose of Stalingrad," she was ultimately shot down and died in 1943.


Which of these women is known as a legendary female samurai, archer and warrior?

In the 12th century, Tomoe Gozen fought fiercely for general Kiso Yoshinaka in the Genpei War. She was known to kill any rival that came his way; in one instance, even chopping off an opposing samurai's head.


Do you know why people revere military hero Florence Nightingale?

Florence Nightingale rose to prominence during the Crimean War, during which time she served as a nurse manager and trainer. She eventually instilled hygienic practices, reduced death rates and drastically improved living conditions in army hospitals.


Which of these women played an integral role in military strategy during the Peruvian rebellion against the Spanish?

In 1780, Puyucahua joined her husband Tupac Amaru in rebelling against Spanish invaders. She served as a "logistics chief" during warfare, devising strategies to defend rebel strongholds and attack Spanish forces. She also ran the rebel camp, recruited new fighters, mobilized soldiers and personally carried out punishments like executions against the enemy. "Both rebels and loyalists feared her wrath," historian Charles F. Walker wrote of Puyucahua.


Do you the name of the first woman that oversaw a U.S. combat air campaign?

Former major general in the U.S. Air Force Margaret H. Woodward commanded the 17th Air Force and led all U.S. air actions in Africa. In 2011, she commanded the U.S.' role in Libya's no-fly zone sanctioned by the United Nations.


Although sometimes nicknamed the "Vietnamese Joan of Arc," one of these women actually predated the French hero by more than 1,200 years. Who is she?

At age 20, Lady Triệu garnered a following of 1,000 to rebel against Chinese invaders during 3rd century B.C. Despite her brother's protests, she eventually convinced him to join her. Wearing a yellow robe and a sword in each hand, she successfully liberated her territory in a series of 30 advances. Eventually, though, Chinese forces took over.


Do you know the name of the first African-American woman to command a U.S. Navy ship and to hold a two- and three-star ranking?

In addition to commanding the USS Rushmore, Retired U.S. Navy officer Michelle Howard also was the first female graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy that attained flag rank. She also boasts several more 'firsts,' including being the first woman to become a four-star admiral in the U.S. Navy and the first African-American woman to serve as Vice Chief of Naval Operations.


On December 27, 1990, which of these women became the first ever to command a U.S. Navy Vessel?

Of her achievement during the Gulf War, Iskra said, "I hadn't realized what a big deal being the first woman to command a ship would be until I arrived in Naples, and on my desk was a stack of congratulatory cards and letters from people I didn't even know!" Iskra served 21 years in the Navy.


Do you know who the "Dahomey Amazons" were?

Armed with knives, clubs and three-foot-long razors, the Dahomey Amazon soldiers fought for their kingdom from the 17th to 19th century. They were trained intensely, wore uniforms, and numbered somewhere between 1,000 and 6,000 women.


Disguised as a man named William, do you know the real name of the first African-American to ever serve in the U.S. military?

Under the alias William Cathay, Cathay Williams enrolled in the U.S. Army in 1866. After heroically fighting with an all-African American unit in several battles, she unfortunately contracted smallpox and was discharged when the surgeon discovered she was a woman.


Do you know what Annie G. Fox is remembered as?

In 1941, Annie G. Fox served as Head Nurse of Hickman Field, Hawaii's Station Hospital, treating hundreds of those wounded in Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor. Although they revoked her Purple Heart shortly after awarding it due to a change in award criteria (which now required that the service member be injured), she received a Bronze Star Medal in October 1944.


During which war did Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester of the U.S. National Guard receive the Silver Star?

Hester became the first woman to receive the Silver Star award since World War II for her leadership on March 20, 2005, during an enemy ambush on a convoy in Iraq. She safely led her squad through the kill zone before assaulting the line with grenades, ultimately taking down two trenches. She then shot and killed three more insurgents.


When did the U.S. military begin to permit women to serve in direct combat roles?

Although women served in the military for generations, they were effectively barred from combat roles until former Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta lifted the ban in January 2013.


Do you know who Major Lyudmila Pavlichenko was?

Major Lyudmila Pavlichenko was a sharpshooter who joined the Soviet army at the start of World War I. During a single year of combat she made 309 confirmed kills. Afterward, she became a sharpshooting instructor and goodwill ambassador for other Allied nations.


In U.S. military history, only one woman has received the military's greatest honor, aptly named the Medal of Honor. Do you know her name?

One of only eight civilians ever to receive the award, Walker earned it in 1865 for her efforts in the Civil War. During this period, she worked as a contract surgeon for Union Forces and was held captive by the Confederacy.


Nicknamed the "wrestler princess," which of these women also demonstrated immense success on the battlefield?

Born around 1260, Khutulun was the daughter of Central Asia's most powerful ruler of the time, Kaidu, and the great-great-granddaughter of Ghengis Khan. She wrestled in public competitions and accounts state that no man could ever beat her. On the battlefield, she fiercely defended western Mongolia and Kazakhstan against Kublai Khan. Marco Polo described her capturing enemy soldiers "as deftly as a hawk pounces on a bird."


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