In 2016, the Secretary of Defense opened all ground combat jobs in the military to women, permitting work in a field that had been off limits to them since the inception of the Women’s Army Corps in 1948. Yet little is understood about female soldiers’ journey to attain these roles. This dissertation shows how the 2016 decision did not emerge out of nowhere; earlier generations had laid the foundation. That foundation reflected both advocacy and achievement on the part of military women to gain access to a range of noncombat jobs on the battlefield. Women’s integration into these positions changed the meaning of combat from a geographic space exposing soldiers to hostile action, to a soldier’s specific direct ground combat role attacking the enemy.
Women’s integration fundamentally transformed the Army workplace. Between 1964 and 1994, their presence in the Army increased from one percent to thirteen percent. As their numbers grew, they increasingly infiltrated the leadership ranks; by 2016, over seventeen percent of Generals were women. Having women in these leadership positions meant they commanded men, established plans for war and led troops in battle. Many ordinary soldiers pushed for policies that enabled mothers to serve, allowed women access to professional military education, and they consistently forced the military to confront the problem of sexual violence. Lesbian soldiers consistently pushed the Army for inclusion, by 2010 their efforts resulted in the right of all homosexuals to serve openly. Women’s opportunities visible in the Army today are the result of female soldier’s consistent push for equal treatment as soldiers.
|Commitee:||Elliott, Mark, Jackson, Tom, Jones, Jeff|
|School:||The University of North Carolina at Greensboro|
|Department:||College of Arts and Sciences: History|
|School Location:||United States -- North Carolina|
|Source:||DAI-A 78/06(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||American history, Womens studies, Military history|
|Keywords:||Female soldiers, Panama, Sexual harassment, Vietnam War, Women in combat, Women in the military|
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