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Cathay Williams – First African American woman to enlist, 1844 – 1893.
Alias: William Cathay
Cathay Williams was an American soldier who enlisted in the US Army under the pseudonym William Cathay. She was the first African-American woman to enlist.
Born into a society where men were free and women in slavery, she worked as a house slave until she was captured in the American Civil War and impressed into serving, which would lead her to join the military when the war was over.
Due to ongoing health issues and a hospitalisation that ultimately lead to the discovery of her gender, Cathay served for a mere two years.
Despite suffering from neuralgia, diabetes, and undergoing toe amputation, a doctor decided she did not qualify for the US Pension based on her military service, and Cathay died a short while after.
An injustice not known to man in similar circumstances, Cathay’s commitment to her country went unnoticed, and speaks of the cruelties that women faced in centuries gone.