Cathay Williams was the first Black woman to become a soldier in the U.S Army and a Buffalo Soldier in the American Indian Wars. Although there were laws against women enlisting, in her determination to live life as an independent person, she took the pseudonym, William Cathay and in 1866 enlisted as a man.
She served for 3 years until hospitalised for Smallpox-related issues. She was discharged without pension after her surgeon reported back to the army that she was in fact a woman. Like the women of my podcast, Cathay Williams became a heroine by choosing to challenge existing barriers to fulfil her adventuresomeness and potential. In 2016 her accomplishments were honoured with a bronze bust in a rose garden at the Richard Allan Cultural Center in Kansas. Linda Kirkpatrick has summed up her life in a poem.
Historically many women have had to hide who they are or aspects of themselves in order to fulfil their personal callings. For instance, Ayla in IW Episode 4 had to hide her Jewishness to express her desire to enlist in the Free French Army. Women often cut through cultural boundaries not to become heroines but to get on with their purpose in life. As the Wounded Warrior Project stated, “Many women accomplish extraordinary feats in the process of simply trying to live their lives, unaware of the far-reaching impact their determination will have.”