Cathay Williams became the first black woman to enlist in the U.S. Army in 1866

Cathay Williams changed her name to Williams Cathay when woman were prohibited from serving in the military in 1866.

She disguised herself as a man so she would be allowed to enter the U.S Army meaning she was the first black woman to enlist in the Army.

She served the army for two years and hid her femininity until she was discovered by a surgeon.

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An illustration of Cathay Williams. Pic credit: Atlanta Black Star

“The post surgeon found out I was a woman and I got my discharge. The men all wanted to get rid of me after they found out I was a woman. Some of them acted real bad to me,” Cathay said.

Her story first came public after an article about her life and military service was published on January 2, 1876, in the St. Louis Daily Times while she lived in Colorado.

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