On the 100th anniversary of the American involvement in World War I, 23 women from Montana were honored for their extraordinary service with a memorial plaque placed at the Yellowstone County Courthouse. According to a report broadcast by Montana news television station KPAX, the ceremony was attended by state officials, legislators, law enforcement officers, and many local veterans.
The plaque was the result of research undertaken by an Army veteran over six years. The women memorialized in the plaque served as Navy clerks and Army nurses. During the ceremony, a few biographies of these amazing women were read. One interesting story was that of Harriet O’Day Nielsen, an Army nurse who served at various field hospitals in France. Nielsen’s wartime service included dangerous moments such as tending to the wounded while being targeted by artillery fire. The legendary General John Pershing, who commanded American forces during World War I, personally recognized Nielsen’s display of courage under fire.
Another notable story told during the ceremony involved Regina McIntyre Early, another Army nurse who served on the western front at various field hospitals. It so happens that McIntyre was a member of the Kootenai tribe in Montana; this distinction makes her the first female war veteran of Native American descent. To this effect, three members of the Mission Valley Honor Guard, all Native American female veterans, were invited to perform at the commemoration of this plaque.
According to the National Women’s History Museum, the support that women provided to the war effort was very significant. Aside from serving in the Army and Navy, they also joined the workforce to keep up productivity while men were fighting in Europe. Women also helped with the sale of war bonds and coordinated food rationing drives.
Although there are no records of American servicewomen killed in combat during World War I, some lost their lives due to accidents or disease while serving abroad. The contribution made by these women during wartime does not get as much recognition as it should, which is why the effort behind memorial plaque in Yellowstone County is to be commended,