B Mo’s Black History Month Fact of The Day – Day 1
Today's fact is about Cathay Williams.
Cathay Williams was an American soldier who enlisted in the United States Army under the fake name William Cathay. Cathay was the first African American woman to enlist. She enlisted in the 38th infantry in 1866. When she enlisted in the Army, women were not allowed to serve as soldiers. She was able to this only because a medical exam was not required at the time. She served for two years before a doctor discovered that she was a woman, leading to her discharge.
Of the approximately 3,800 Black infantrymen and cavalrymen who served in the frontier Army between 1866 and 1900, she was the only woman to serve as a Buffalo Soldier, as far as is known today. Only her cousin and a friend knew who she really was and that she was a woman.
Cathay was born in Independence, MO in September of 1844, where she worked as a house slave for William Johnson, a wealthy planter in Jefferson City, until his death.
In September 1893, a doctor from the U.S. Pension Bureau examined her. Despite the fact that she suffered from neuralgia and diabetes, had had all her toes amputated, and could only walk with a crutch, the doctor decided she did not qualify for disability payments. Her application was then rejected.
No one truly knows when and how Cathay died. It is assumed she passed shortly after being denied in 1893. Her final resting place is also unknown because her gravestone would have been made of wood which deteriorated long ago.
And THAT is B Mo's Black History Month Fact of The Day!