WOMEN IN THE FRENCH MILITARY
women in the French military
In the 1800s, women in the French military were responsible for preparing meals for soldiers, and were called cantinières. They sold food to soldiers beyond that which was given to them as rations. Cantinières had commissions from the administrators of the regiments, and they were required to be married to a soldier of the regiment. They served near the front lines on active campaigns, and some served for as long as 30 years. During the Wars of the French Revolution, some women enlisted in the army, mainly in support roles.Marie-Angélique Duchemin is the first woman with a recorded rank in the French Army, being promoted Corporal and Acting Sergeant in 1794. She was promoted 2nd Lieutenant on the retired list in 1815. Duchemin is the first woman decorated with the Legion of Honor, in 1851.
submarines of the French navy
The role of women in the French military grew in 1914 with the recruitment of women as medical personnel (Service de Santé des Armées). In 1939, they were authorized to enlist with the armed service branches, and in 1972 their status evolved to share the same ranks as those of men. Nonetheless, women are still not permitted to join the field combat units or to be aboard the submarines of the French navy.
Valérie André, a neurosurgeon, became the first woman in France to attain the rank of three-star general as Médecin Général Inspecteur. A veteran of the French Resistance, she served overseas in Indochina. During that period, she learned how to pilot a helicopter so that she could reach wounded soldiers who were trapped in the jungle. André is the first woman to have flown a helicopter in combat. She received many decorations for her achievements, including the highest rank of theLegion of Honour. She retired from active service in 1981.
Today women make up around 15% of all service personnel in the combined branches of the French military. They are 11% of the Army forces, 13% for the Navy, 21% of the Air Force and 50% of the Medical Corps. This is the highest proportion of female personnel in Europe.