VNMP program to chronicle women’s roles in military

Published 11:30 am Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pat Strange, dressed as Union soldier Albert Cashier, talks to a group of visitors at the base of the Illinois Memorial in October 2011.

Pat Strange, dressed as Union soldier Albert Cashier, talks to a group of visitors at the base of the Illinois Memorial in October 2011.

Vicksburg National Military Park will commemorate Women’s History Month with a first-hand account of the role of women in today’s military and a ranger talk Saturday in the Visitor Center.
Guest speaker for the program that begins at 2 p.m. is 1st Lt. Veronica Peppers, a 24-year veteran of the Mississippi Army National Guard.
Peppers, who is a Canton native, deployed to Kuwait and Iraq in 2003 and 2004 and served in Afghanistan in 2011 and 2012. She is currently a platoon leader for Detachment 1, Company A, 106 BSB based in Taylorsville.
“First Lt. Peppers brings experience to what will prove to be an interesting talk on women in the military,” VNMP Chief of Operations Rick Martin said in a written release.
The program will also feature a talk by ranger Ray Hamel on women’s participation in the American military from the American Revolution until modern day.
Women have served in support roles, and in some cases combat, for the U.S. military since it’s beginnings in the 1770s.
During wartime, an unknown number of women hid their gender to participate in combat, though the stories of several who were discovered are well documented.
The first known woman to dress as a man and serve the United States was Deborah Sampson, who was 22 in May 1782 when she enlisted in the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment under the name Robert Shurtliff.
Sampson was wounded at Tarrytown, N.Y., and her identity was discovered.
Most famous in Warren County, however, is Jenny Hodgers, who enlisted in the 95th Illinois Infantry in August 1862 as Albert Cashier and fought during the Siege of Vicksburg in 1863.
Cashier’s name is inscribed in the Illinois Memorial, and Hodgers lived most of her postwar life as a man.
In 1910, she was hit by a car and broke her leg. When she was taken to the hospital, a doctor discovered her true identify but kept it secret for years.
Eventually the secret got out, and she was forced to live in a hospital for the mentally ill where she was made to wear women’s clothing.
She died in October 1915 after tripping over her dress.
Women in combat was a long-taboo subject and into the early 20th century, the U.S. government denied that women had ever served in the Civil War.
“No official record has been found in the War Department showing specifically that any woman was ever enlisted in the military services of the United States,” Adjutant General F.C. Ainsworth wrote in response to questions by journalist Ida Tarbell around 1910.