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S. 1641, A Bill to establish the Women's Army Corps . . . [and] to authorize the enlistment and appointment of women in the . . . Navy and Marine Corps . . . (Women's Armed Services Integration Act), July 16, 1947

The Women’s Armed Services Integration Act granted women the right to serve as regular, permanent members of the armed services for the first time. The number of women who could serve was capped at two percent of all personnel and prohibited their full participation in combat. Despite these restrictions, the act represented a turning point for women’s right to defend their country.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

S. 1641 - Image 2 S. 1641 - Image 3

The Women’s Armed Services Integration Act

Congress gave members of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), a branch of the U.S. Army, full service status during World War II. However, the legislation that did so was set to expire in 1948. As early as 1946, Army leaders requested that enlisted women be made a permanent part of the Army. Following two years of legislative debate, Congress passed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act in 1948. The act granted women the right to serve as permanent, regular members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and the recently formed Air Force.

[The] issue is simple—either the armed services have a permanent need of women officers and enlisted women or they do not. If they do, then women must be given permanent status.

Representative Margaret Chase Smith of Maine, Speech to the U.S. House of Representatives, April 6, 1948