Reposted from: www.leadonnetwork.com/wordpress
This is a Day in Washington #Disability #Policy Podcast.
Although originally posted for Black History Month (February), Cathay Williams is great for Women’s History Month (March) as well!
Cathay Williams (September 1844 – 1892)
On 15 November 1866 in St. Louis, Cathay Williams enlisted in the United States Army, 38th Infantry as a man named William Cathay. To date, she is the only documented African-American woman who served in the U.S. Army (until modern time).
From the St. Louis Daily Times, January 2, 1876:
“The regiment I joined wore the Zouave uniform and only two persons, a cousin and a particular friend, members of the regiment, knew that I was a woman. They never ‘blowed’ on me. They were partly the cause of my joining the army. Another reason was I wanted to make my own living and not be dependent on relations or friends. Soon after I joined the army, I was taken with the small-pox and was sick at a hospital across the river from St. Louis, but as soon as I got well I joined my company in New Mexico.”
She seemed an average soldier; she performed garrison duty adequately enough. She drilled and trained with Company A, and went scouting for signs of hostile Native Americans. There was no cause for her to be remarked upon either positively or negatively in any officer reports of record.
In January 1868 her health began deteriorating. On the 27th, she was admitted to the post hospital for rheumatism. She released, and then was admitted again on March 20th. During her military career, she was in four hospitals, on five separate occasions, for varying amounts of time. On July 13, she was admitted into the hospital and diagnosed with neuralgia (a catch-all term for pain caused by a nerve, or parts of the nervous system). Finally, on October 14, 1868 William Cathey was discharged with a certificate of disability.
After this, she resumed her identity as Cathay Williams and worked in New Mexico and Colorado as cook, laundress and nurse.
In 1890, she was hospitalized in eighteen months though no mention is given of the specific ailment. In June 1891 she filed for an invalid pension based upon her military service. She claimed loss of hearing, neuralgia, and rheumatism. Upon a doctor’s examination, pension records show that all her toes on both feet had been amputated, and she could only walk with a crutch.
From DeAnne Blanton’s “CATHAY WILLIAMS, BLACK WOMAN SOLDIER”: “It is unfortunate that so little is known of Cathay Williams. The information in her pension file together with the scattered references to her in military records is all that exists. The fragmentary references to her physical condition, however, provide some clues as to what may have caused of her various ailments during the course of her adult life. It is entirely possible that Cathay Williams suffered from mild diabetes.”
The Pension Bureau rejected her claim on the grounds that no disability existed.
You can read more about her here “Cathay Williams, Female Buffalo Soldier”: http://www.buffalosoldier.net/CathayWilliamsFemaleBuffaloSoldierWithDocuments.htm
And “Cathay Williams, Black Woman Buffalo Soldier”:http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/cathay-williams-black-woman-buffalo-soldier/