Cathay Williams was the first African American woman to enlist and be documented as a soldier in the U.S. Army. Williams posed as a man named William Cathay, knowing that the army would not check her gender and assume she was a man.
Williams was born a slave in Independence, MO. She was raised on a plantation in Jefferson City, MO. At the breakout of the Civil War, slaves were labeled as ‘contraband’ by the Union Army and women were forced to serve as military cooks, maids and nurses. Seventeen-year-old Cathay Williams traveled through the Midwest and neighboring states as part of the military. But once she saw the soldiers fighting in battle, she wanted to be a part of the field action.
Despite the ban of women in the U.S. Army, Williams enlisted on November 15, 1866 in St. Louis. She served in the 38th U.S. Infantry, also known as the Buffalo Soldiers, for three years. Only her cousin and a close friend who served alongside her knew her true identity.
The truth about Cathay Williams was finally revealed when she was struck with smallpox and other illnesses from the harsh war conditions. On October 14, 1868, she was discharged from the Army once her post surgeon revealed that she was a woman to her commanding officer. After she returned from war, she worked as a cook in New Mexico. She married a man who later stole her savings and horses, whom she had arrested for his crimes. She developed diabetes and all of her toes were amputated. Though there had been other women who secretly served in the American Revolutionary War who obtained benefits, she was denied any disability or pension from the military.
Cathay Williams told her story to the St. Louis Daily Times in an article dated January 2, 1876. She died sometime in 1892. Unfortunately, her gravesite was never given a headstone and is its location is unknown.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (6/18-6/24)
25 photos Launch gallery
1. Me & the homie @jaleelwhite #RujohnFoundation Happy to be in Jamaica! Good times
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5. Good Morning. Early day in Detroit! Making press rounds for @thebossnetwork's Ladies That Lead Tour. Thank you @traycemadre and @colourbynumbr for my glam.
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6. POWER the best show on TV @djenvy, Queens we so big out here. #EFFENVODKA #FRIGO
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7. They said u lost a step, wasn't explosive as once was, the best days was in the real view, questioned your drive, your leadership, your commitment, you don't have killer instinct, going back home is the worst mistake in your career, he got the coach fired, players traded, won't work between him and Kyrie, Him and Kev won't work, love your teammates to much, there's no way he can deliver a championship in his hometown, etc etc etc.... But guess what THATS NONE OF MY BUSINESS #StriveForGreatness #ThisOneIsForTheLand #PutSomeRespeckOnMyName Hahahaha!!! Yes sir
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8. Oooooh weeee this man right here is responsible for at least three of our four babies!! #JOE ❤❤❤🎤 #rnb #king #voicelikebutter #ForPeetesSake
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9. Hanging with my @abcnetwork family! @abcunclebuck tonite y'all check us out ! @anthonyanderson @traceeellisross
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10. My broski ( @sayeedshahidi ) and I are on Top 5 Live on @go90 at 5 (which is super duper close)! Make sure to tune in :) #UncleBuck #Blackish
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11. Lights out💤 #GoodNight
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12. Late nights mornings
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13. Ran into the lovely talented @siedahgarrett on this brutiful favvuz deh!
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14. #halal #love #thedargans #kattwilliamsSHOW #mashallah when that Jennah piece HIT!! @sweetjennahcollection glasses by @baddieglamaccessories LIZ 😍 @dynamiteko top @dazzledmv and jeans @thevision414 and shoes: @louboutinworld
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15. Big Hair and Optical Illusions #OceanDrive #MiamiLiving #coverparty
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16. MAMA and THE SAVAGES ... ⚓️ #supportyourlocalgirlgang
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17. From the bottom of my ❤️, thank you new followers & old! & hello fellow night owls! #grateful #racheltrue #naturalhair #curlyhair #curlygirl #healthyhair
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18. I feel so grateful because I met these amazing young minds, visiting from Houston TX, during their college tour stop today at #usc.These students are ALL extraordinary and embody academic excellence so I'm humbled to have shared a few moments with them to applaud and celebrate their bright futures ahead! Thank you @EmergeFellows for inviting me to speak and blessing me with your love and attention this afternoon!
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19. Happy Fathers Day Pops. U taught me how to be a man. Lessons of love, hard work & gratefulness. Sorry the fishing didn't stick. LOL. I Love U!
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20. Sky Zone and Ice Cream! Best Fathers Day Ever!! Photo credit @mariahcarey
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21. Look what finally came in the mail 😎 #mtvmovieawards2016 💥+🌽! #straightouttacompton
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22. Claudia Jordan: ....
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23. 'Member that time I almost knocked a bajillion dollar camera off the car? Really? Yeah, me neither! #Greenleaf Episode 2 comin atcha!
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24. Full of love. #birthday #Cabo
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25. Oh hey! Look who just joined Snapchat
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