As far as the modern military is concerned, women in combat is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the present, nearly a dozen countries allow women into active combat roles, with many more (including the US) placing only partial restrictions on female military enlistees.
However, there has always been another option for women joining the military in the past: CROSS-DRESSING That’s not to say it’s entirely new. Nearly a million women served in the Soviet military during World War II.
Of course, that sort of thing was quite a bit more successful in eras past when doctors (if there even was one to do a physical) weren’t quite as professional and thorough as they are today.
When Union soldiers occupied her hometown of Jefferson City, Missouri, during the Civil War they freed her and other slaves, and took many of them on in support roles for the duration of the war.
A year after she was released at the end of the war, in 1866, she decided to return to the army, this time as a soldier. With a good disguise and an uninspired health examination, she was declared “fit for duty” as William Cathay. Despite numerous illnesses, she served for more than a year.
Of course, her employment was in a relatively peaceful time in the aftermath of a war. More Info
Dorothy Lawrence, a female British journalist, went straight into the middle of a war legendary for its grim fatality.
At the age of 20,with friends and connections, she managed to make her way to the front, where she fell in with army engineers and began working as a sapper, digging tunnels and planting mines.
Although she had the ingenuity to make it there, she had none of the conditioning of a soldier and suffered a fainting spell 10 days into her deployment. Rather than risk discovery, she revealed herself at that point.
Deborah Sampson was much more successful than either Dorothy or Cathay.
In 1778, she joined the American Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, was wounded, continued to serve and eventually received an honorable discharge.
With the help of Paul Revere, she was even granted her military pension.