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Nation's Oldest Woman Veteran Dies at 103

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24, 2000 – Frieda Mae Hardin, the nation's oldest woman veteran, died Aug. 9 at age 103 in a nursing home in Livermore, Calif.

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World War I Navy Yeoman Frieda Mae Hardin, 101, accompanied by her son, retired Navy Capt. Jerald Kirsten, was a guest speaker at the October 1997 dedication of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington (Va.) National Cemetery. Hardin was the nation's oldest woman veteran when she died Aug. 9 at age 103 in a nursing home in Livermore, Calif. Photo by Rudi Williams.

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Hardin's World War I service was broadcasted around the world in October 1997 when she spoke during dedication ceremonies for the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at the gateway to Arlington (Va.) National Cemetery.

Decked out in her World War II "yeomanette" uniform and a wide- brimmed hat inscribed with "U.S. Naval Reserve," she told an estimated crowd of more than 30,000 about her service to her country.

"In my 101 years of living, I have observed many wonderful achievements, but none as important or as meaningful as the progress of women in taking their rightful place in society," said Hardin, who was accompanied by her son, Jerald Kirsten, a retired Navy captain.

"When I served in the Navy, women were not even allowed to vote!" she exclaimed. "Now, women occupy important leadership positions not only in the military, but also in business, government, education and in almost every form of human activity."

She told the audience that her generation wasn't the first generation of women to serve the country. "But we did our part, serving with honor and distinction," said Hardin, who was born on Sept. 22, 1896, in Eden Valley, Minn. "To those women who are now in military service, I say, 'Go for it!' You are doing wonderful work and it's very much appreciated."

She addressed young women who may be thinking of a career in the military service. "You will find a world of opportunity waiting for you," she said. "I have always been very proud of my Navy service." She received three standing ovations for her 10-minute speech.

Hardin and thousands of women like her paved the way for future women to serve in the U.S. armed forces. She joined the Navy as a "yeomanette" in September 1918 and served until March 1919. More than 12,000 women served in the Navy during World War I as clerks, stenographers, telephone operators, recruiters, draftsmen and camouflage designers.

Hardin survived four husbands and is survived by a daughter and three sons. All her sons served in the military.

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