As you may known, March is the month to celebrate and recognize women’s history. The Purple Heart Foundation wanted to take this month to honor some important women veterans and their honorable service throughout our country’s history.
Grace Brewster Murray, better known as Grace Hopper (after marriage) was born in December of 1906 in New York City. She attended Vassar College, studying math and physics. Upon her graduation she attended Yale University, where she received her Masters in mathematics. She did not stop their, Grace continued her studies at Yale to receive a Ph.D. while also teaching at Vassar. In fact, in 1934 she was one of the first woman to receive her Ph.D.
Though she had a successful career, Grace wanted to enlist in the United States Navy during the early part of World War II. Unfortunately she had been rejected. Grace was 34, which had been too old to enlist, additionally her weight and height ratio was also too low. The military also felt her job as a professor as Vassar College was valuable and she should remain in that position. That did not stop her. Grace took a leave of absence from Vassar College and was sworn into the United States Navy Reserve. She was commissioned as a lieutenant in 1944.
Grace’s assignment was at Harvard University to the Bureau of Ships Computation Project. She was one of the first three computer programmers, and was responsible for programming the Mark I. In later years she also helped to develop the Mark II and Mark III. Following the war, Grace was hoping to transfer to active duty, but was once again declined due to her age. Despite that, she remained serving as an officer in the Navy Reserve.
Who would have thought, at age 60 Grace would be recalled to active duty. She remained with the United States Navy for 19 more years. Grace retired in 1986 at age 79 as not only a Rear Admiral, but as the oldest serving officer in our military. Following her retirement, Grace was awarded the highest non-combat medal by the Department of Defense, the Defense Distinguished Service Medal.
During her lifespan, her talents and accomplishments led her to be awarded forty honorary degrees worldwide, from various universities. Grace was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 1991, making her the first female to receive that honor individually. The following year she past away, at the age of 85. You can visit her grave at the Arlington National Cemetery.
Her passing did not mark the end of her accomplishments and honors. In 1997 the United States Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer was named USS Hopper in her honor. In 2016, President Barack Obama honored Grace posthumously with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
It is thanks to hardworking and dedicated service members like Grace Hopper that we are free. Here at the Purple Heart Foundation, we are committed to honoring all of our heroes. It is our goal to make the transformation from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one for all of our men and women in uniform, Show your support by making a one-time or monthly pledge to ensure they continue to receive the support and benefits they deserve.