On November 15, 1866, Cathay Williams became the first African-American female to enlist and serve in the United States Army. She went by the name “William Cathay” as it shows on the application above.
Born into Slavery
Cathay Williams was born in Independence, Mo. in September of 1842. Her mother was a “slave” and her father was a “free man of color.” She fled her master’s plantation in Jefferson City in 1861, seeking the protection of the Union troops occupying the city.