The first woman in the U.S. Navy

Loretta Perfectus Walsh before her time in the Navy.

The Catalyst / Navy Memorial

Loretta Perfectus Walsh before her time in the Navy.

On March 21, 1917, Loretta Perfectus Walsh was the first American woman to enlist in the Navy that served beyond a nursing capacity. A mandate was passed on March 19, 1917, to allow women to enlist in the Navy. When Walsh heard this news she wasted no time and hastily made her way to enlist.

Walsh was a patriotic woman looking for ways she could further serve her country that she dearly revered. There was a clear solution for Walsh: The answer to this invigorating question was to serve in the Navy.

Initially, Walsh was reportedly not loved or respected by many. In a majority of scenarios, whether it be the workforce, corporate world, or beyond, men were given respect by default. This was especially true in the Navy due to the fact that until 1917 the navy was an entirely male-driven environment. On the contrary, women like Walsh had to work three times as hard to earn the respect that men were given naturally. However, defying social norms, Walsh did prove herself. She became a Chief Officer within a year of her training.

Walsh unfortunately died in war doing what she loved. Walsh served in the army till her death, from age 21 to 29.
Although Walsh is one of many women to accomplish what was deemed impossible feats for women, Walsh’s story adds to the collective impact of Women’s History Month pushing women to progress. Walsh’s accomplishments inspire other women to achieve their goal and break new boundaries every day.

Women’s History Month is about celebrating the women who have made outstanding strides far from the ordinary, breaking cultural and social barriers. These amazing women are acknowledged in Women’s History Month to empower other women to achieve greatness in their own terms and capacity. This month is not completely about learning women’s strides in history. This month represents more.Women’s History Month is about teaching women by example of other accomplished women in history to be confident in their own skin to take on greater obstacles than yesterday. This month reminds women who they are and where their roots lie.

In her time, Walsh achieved what seemed impossible and frowned upon by many. Now Walsh is celebrated as the first ever woman in the Navy. With Walsh’s strides, she made women in the Navy yesterday’s impossibilities and today’s ordinary. Without her strides to enlist as a woman in the Navy, it is a possibility that it might not have ever been done.

For society to proceed with its time, taboo has to be demolished and new social norms must be created. Walsh demolished the taboo of women being incapable of strength whether it be physically or mentally. Women in the 1900’s were expected to remain home, bear children, cook meals, look pretty, and clean. Walsh envisioned more, society’s taboo remained in hindsight for her.

Walsh pushed the women of her time out of their comfort zones by showing others what women were capable of; She inspired women to do what they thought was impossible. Loretta Perfectus Walsh taught women that anything is possible with passion, power, and determination.