Women soldiers of the Civil War.
In January of 2013 the US government officially lifted the ban on women soldiers in combat roles. By 2014 33,000 new positions were made available to women in the military.
Was this really the first time American women fought in combat roles? There are documented stories of women fighting in the Revolutionary War, both with and without disguise. Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley (better known as Molly Pitcher) is probably the most well-known. When her husband collapsed at the cannon during the Battle of Monmouth, she took his place.
Women soldiers also fought in a number of battles in the Civil War, disguised as men. After the Battle of Antietam, Union soldiers discovered the body of a female Confederate soldier. Union soldiers buried her apart from her male counterparts. The woman soldier’s grave was given a makeshift marker: “unknown Woman CSA.”
For a long time historians viewed the women soldiers’ motivation and participation as rare and inexplicable. More recently scholars have argued that these women fought for many of the same reasons as male soldiers, such as political beliefs. For Confederate women it may have been an opportunity to defend their way of life, or the chance to earn a steady paycheck at a time when the economy was in state of chaos.
Conservative estimates of female soldiers in the Civil war puts the number somewhere around 250 to 400.
Due to the nature of being a female solider disguised as a man it’s nearly impossible to come with exact numbers. A few women are known to have been buried under their male names.
Why weren’t they discovered more often?
When the military became desperate for recruits early on in the war they stopped performing a regular physical on recruits. At best recruits would walk by the doctor and if they didn’t limp or have anything overtly wrong with them they were accepted. Most soldiers also slept in their clothing and spent long periods in encampments in between battles. Seeing women in pants with short hair was so unheard of at the time, it was a surprisingly good disguise. There were also a number of very young male recruits who did not shave yet, which would have allowed women to blend in more easily. During these long encampments, in between battles, it would have been easy for a women to slip away to take care of any physical needs. However it did become well known before the end of the war that women were on the battlefields. One of the reasons these women went undiscovered until they were wounded or killed was that, as “male soldiers” they were performing what was required of them. When discovered women were often released from service and sent home. Sometimes they were imprisoned for their behavior.
Were they as brave as their male counterparts? Were these women capable of carrying out their duties as soldiers?
One Union solider wrote home to his family about encountering several Confederate women soldiers in battle: “They fought like demons, and we cut them down like dogs.”
Frances Clayton, who went by the name of Jack Williams, joined the Union forces with her husband in 1864. She was wounded three times and taken prisoner once. Frances Clayton, having already fought at the Battle of Fort Donelson in Tennessee, witnessed her husband’s death in battle. When the call came to fix bayonets Clayton fixed her bayonet, stepped over her husband’s body and charged. When the battle was over she revealed her identity and was discharged.
Did the general public ever know about these women soldiers? How did their male counterparts feel about these women?
The public did know about these women soldiers. Soldiers would write home to their families about the women soldiers who had been discovered on both sides of the conflict. One newspaper editor actually said he received so many stories on a regular basis that he couldn’t possibly print them all. Most of these women went back to their “normal lives” when they went home. Some women were hailed as heroines and others were condemned by public opinion.
Sarah Edmonds Seeyle published a bestselling memoir, Nurse and Spy about her ten year service during the Civil War. She married and had two children and for 20 years she did not discuss her previous life. In 1883 Sarah went public with her war service in order to obtain a pension. She knew this would be a difficult task. At the time Sarah was suffering from ill health, some of which was due to war related injuries. She had to prove that she was in fact the male solider known as Franklin Thompson of the 2nd Michigan Infantry. Sarah would also need desertion charges removed from her military record.
By going public Sarah hoped to gather support from Union veterans as well the general public. Her story was reprinted in a number of newspapers. Sarah’s local newspaper added that she was known to be a good wife and mother. During the Victorian Era this acknowledgement was an important in Sarah’s effort to gain public support.
General O.M. Poe wrote a letter to Congress in 1885 verifying that Sarah was the male solider Franklin Thompson. With the support of both the public and soldiers of the 2nd Michigan Infantry Sarah was granted a pension. Sarah Edmonds Seeyle was also welcomed by her fellow veterans at reunions of the 2nd Michigan Infantry. She was cleared of the charge of desertion and given back pay. Congress noted that she performed “meritorious service” and gave “zealous and efficient aid” to “the cause of which she felt to be the highest and noblest that can actuate man or woman.” However they did not give Sarah’s military record the acknowledgement it deserved. Sarah was a soldier, orderly, spy and mail carrier during the Civil War. Congress considered her work with the Christian Commission, as a women, (she worked with veterans after the war) to be of much higher value.
Could gender inequality be a possible reason for women to disguise themselves as soldiers?
The Civil War would have been a time of economic hardship. Jobs that paid a decent living wage would have been scarce for women. Single women and widowed woman of the working and lower-class would have been at an economic disadvantage. Employment opportunities were limited outside of the option of marriage. What was available to the working and lower-class women was usually limited to sewing, prostitution or work as a domestic servant. For their work women were paid a fraction of what men earned. In factories they earned far less for the same work. In 1860 a cook in New York City could expect to receive as much as $8 a month. A successful laundress might earn $10 a month. A Union Army private, however, could earn $39 for three months enlistment.
Could the Civil War have presented these women with the opportunity to escape the restrictions put on them by Victorian Society? By taking on a male persona these women Civil War soldiers would have had access to money, independence, the right to vote and the full status their male counterparts enjoyed.
Did women Civil War soldiers help the cause of women’s rights?
Clara Barton, who later founded the Red Cross, served as a nurse during the Civil War. During her time as a nurse in the war, Clara had discovered women soldiers. Clara Barton claimed that the four-year war advanced the social position of women by fifty years. 10 Suffragettes’ Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Gave argued this cause as well. In their 1881 manifesto History of Woman Suffrage they argued that these female soldiers proved that women were as capable of defending themselves in battle as men and they should be afforded the same rights.
The fight for women’s rights began a few decades prior to the Civil War. By the 1830s the right to vote had been extended to most white men, regardless of money and property rights. The Suffragette movement fought for the same liberties. The advent of the Civil War, however, caused the movement to lose momentum. The end of the Civil War brought about the 15
amendment, giving African American males the right to vote.
The original Life Magazine was founded in 1883 and edited by Illustrator Charles Dana Gibson. (Gibson was famous for his Gibson Girl illustrations. These illustrations depicted the ideal Victorian Era woman.) Life was one of New York’s leading magazines at the time. It was also an inherently male magazine. Life surprised its readers by publishing a cover supporting a woman’s right to vote 1913. This cover (image 1) shows a well-bred woman standing with men who already have the right to vote. Life was known for its racist and anti-Semitic views, notice the slovenly Irishman with a drink in his hand and the Italian with a knife in his hand pointed towards the woman. Implying that the only qualification for voting is to be male. After the appearance of the Life Magazine cover more illustrators took up the cause, on both sides of the debate.
There was also a fear at the time that giving woman the vote might somehow cause them to become more masculine. In the process this would cause men to become more feminine, a reverse of roles as opposed to a sharing of roles. Cartoons of the time often showed the suffragette pushing their traditional responsibilities off on the man, while usurping the man’s role. All the while the household and the children are in a shambles due to the woman’s selfishness.
One cover for a series of Suffrage Plays makes good use of imagery that would have been in the public consciousness at the time. The Liberty Bell, a symbol of freedom, is shown. The woman on the cover lies somewhere in between Lady Liberty and the Madonna with her out stretched arms hovering above an illustration of the world. This image turns Suffrage into a lofty and noble cause.
How did the suffragette’s play a part in WWI?
In 1917 women protesters picketed outside of the White House. Virginia Arnold held up a sign renaming President Wilson, Kaiser (emperor) Wilson. (This was a reference to the German Kaiser Wilhelm II, who many saw as the instigator of WWI.) The sign also asked “Have you forgotten your sympathy with the poor Germans because they were not self-governed? 20,000,000 American Women are not self-governed.”
The president was willing to fight for democracy for men in other countries, but didn’t believe in it for women at home.
At the beginning of WWI President Wilson was against suffrage. With the entry of the United States in WWI the NAWSA (National American Woman Suffrage Association) and the National Women’s party changed their strategies. The NAWSA (lead by Carrie Chapman Catt) made the decision to link the idea of women’s suffrage to women’s work in the war service.
The NAWSA’s publishing company reprinted Wilson’s war messages and used its influence to help women organize for war service. The NWP took a different approach and continued picketing the White House. They risked being viewed as anti-American by doing this. NWP picketers reminded the government that while it fought for democracy abroad, during WWI, it did not promote democracy for American women. At home, women were still denied the basic rights every man was entitled to, white, black or immigrant.
A cartoon from the Women’s Citizen a weekly periodical shows an older women, a WWI solider and Uncle Sam. The WWI solider is saying to Uncle Sam “She has given me to Democracy; give democracy to her.”
War and fighting has always been thought of as a male endeavor. In times of war, genders tend to be separated into the protected and the protector. Women are thought to be above violence. Men needed the support of the women both to look after the home front and to supply the next generation of men who would become the protectors/soldiers. They were not looked upon as being capable of being equal partners in the act of war.
How did Edward Bernays’ begin to change advertising during WWI?
War propaganda and advertising changed during WWI with the advent of Edward Bernays. As a member of the U.S. Government’s Committee on Public Information
(CPI) Bernays helped successfully convince an isolationist America to enter into WWI. The slogan “keeping the world safe for Democracy”
was his brainchild and became well known around the world.
As the nephew of Sigmund Freud Bernays’ family background had impressed upon him the importance of ideas and how powerful a good idea could be. He had the idea of using psychology in advertising. Bernays held a hierarchical view of the general public and believed that the masses needed to be led in certain directions. He believed the majority of the public made decisions based on emotion as opposed to logic. This idea divided the general public into two types of people: those who are led and those who lead (Bernays being a leader).
After WWI he was responsible for making smoking publicly acceptable. Lucky Strike cigarettes were re-marketed as Freedom Torches. At the time it was not considered acceptable for women to smoke, only for men. Bernarys staged a public display of women smoking during the Easter Day Parade in New York City. Debutantes were shown smoking the cigarettes in fashion magazines. He then tied this idea into the women suffragists by telling the press to expect women suffragists to light up torches of freedom during the parade as a way of showing their equality to men. A 1930s Chesterfield cigarettes ad proclaimed “women started to smoke . . . Just about the time they began to vote.”
Smoking was just one more barrier to equality for women. This created a new market for cigarettes.
Marketing a war to the general public was really no different than selling cigarettes. Propaganda was no longer just information, it could also influence as well. Americans could be influenced to enter a war through emotion.
Bernays’ new ideas about public relations even made an impression on the Nazis.
When an A.P. (Associated Press) reporter interviewed Joseph Goebbels, prior to WWII, Goebbels had a copy of one of Bernays books on his shelf, despite the fact that Bernays was Jewish.
The Office of War Information (OWI).
In 1942 the Office of War Information (OWI) was created to both craft and disseminate the government’s message to the general public. The government had very specific objectives in mind for the propaganda campaign. Artists, filmmakers and intellectuals were recruited by the government to bring its message to the public. It was felt that there wasn’t enough time to educate the public on the war, other strategies would need to be used. Posters would become ever present in American society and would include such places as post offices, apartment buildings and railroad stations.
The objectives of the OWI’s propaganda included getting the general public behind the war effort, eliminating dissent of any kind, resource conservation and factory production. OWIs efforts used posters, press, radio, motion picture, and other facilities to get the government’s message across. Common poster themes included consequences of careless talk, conservation, civil defense, war bonds, “victory gardens,” how women were needed for the war effort as well as anti-German and Japanese sentiment. These posters projected the idea that winning the war was not a given. The most common approaches for the posters were fear, the bandwagon approach (don’t be left out), name-calling (Germans and Japanese), generalities, euphemism and the testimonial. The messages of these posters made the war personal and preyed on people’s emotions, positive and negative, both through written copy and visual imagery. Some posters were colorful with a patriotic can do theme while others showed the consequences of not winning the war.
One of the OWI’s responsibilities was to review and approve the design and content of all government related posters. Two groups within the OWI clashed over the design of the posters. One group was in favor of a war art approach using bright colors, graphics, symbolism and stylized images, images similar to Art Deco. Those who had been recruited from the world of advertising preferred an advertising approach to the posters.
After repeated clashes between the two groups the admen conducted a survey of the general public. One image surveyed is called “He’s watching you”
produced by the Division of Information, Office for Emergency Management, in 1942. The strong graphic image on the poster actually bears a striking resemblance to a close-up of Darth Vader.
It was actually a German soldier in a helmet, with his face in shadow. The survey asked factory workers to identify who “He” was. The majority of factory workers surveyed thought he was the boss. This survey and others like it caused the admen to gain the upper hand in controlling the look of the posters. Posters took on a less graphic more advertising based feel after 1943.
How did women’s roles change during the war?
Women’s lives and their roles in society changed dramatically during the World War II era. Widespread holes were left in the industrial labor force as more and more men enlisted in the military. The industrial workforce was needed more than ever to help support the war effort in Europe. The period between 1940 and 1945 saw an increase of women in the workforce. They were suddenly encouraged to take up men’s jobs and to wear men’s clothing. In 1945 nearly one in every four women worked outside the home. Women were expected to do all of this while still remaining feminine and keeping up with their household chores. This societal expectation was in anticipation of when the men would come home and women would be expected to return to their pre-war lives.
The Women of WWII: The WACs (Women’s Army Corps), WAVES (Navy), SPARs (Coast Guard) and the Rosies.
Much like their WWI suffragette counterparts the women of WWII organized to help the war effort. Nearly 350,000 women served in or with the armed forces. They enlisted to fill clerical jobs and other jobs that required rote attention and small motor skills. Women freed up the men, who previously occupied these military positions, to go into combat-related positions. They served in the Army and Navy Nurses Corps, Women's Army Corps (WAC), and in the Navy (WAVES), Coast Guard (SPARs) and Marine Corps Women's Reserves. Although not officially members of the armed forces, Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs) provided critical support for the war effort. The WASPs were comprised of 1,074 women who had been chosen out of a field of 25,000 applicants. Women who were chosen had experience flying and pilots licenses. Each female pilot freed a male pilot for combat service.
Early posters promoting women’s military positions did little to allay general public fears of the military masculinizing women, as women were traditionally seen as the protected gender, giving men something to fight for. Much like the fear of giving women the vote, allowing women to work in the traditionally male military might change traditional roles. The idea of a female solider was considered unnatural or even deviant. One of the early posters for the WACs has a masculine woman in military dress yelling “Attention Women!” followed by Join the WAAC. If the government wanted to convince women and more importantly the men (husbands and fathers) they differed to or were influenced by, that woman in military service was a good thing they would have come up with a different angle.
The government recognized the issues for women, who feared male opinion if they joined. They also recognized that men, both civilian and military, would need to be educated as to how women could be beneficial to the war effort. Government posters often stressed that the military held certain benefits for women after the war, their benefits were never clarified.
Later military posters showed parents and husbands proclaiming how proud they were. Posters offered captions such as, “Are you a girl with star spangled heart?” Wives on posters proclaimed, “I’m in this war too!” and bold letters insisted, “Women in war. We can’t win without them.”
One poster shows a woman walking up a gang plank in a military outfit including a helmet and tie while carrying a backpack. She remarks, “I’d rather be with them than waiting.” This woman is acceptable because she is still attractive (wearing full make-up) and feminine. The poster also implies her reason for being in the WACs is to help with the war effort, so the men can get home quickly, a noble sentiment.
How were woman visually portrayed in the war propaganda of the time?
In many of the posters of the time women are wearing men’s clothing and doing a man’s job all while wearing full make up and remaining sexually appealing. Cartoons of the time period show how women’s roles were expected to change, and then to revert to pre-war roles when the men came home.
Women’s images are often used to represent higher ideals. The depiction of Justice is a woman, the statue of Liberty is a woman. Men are often used as representations of strength such as Atlas.
The image (image 2) of a woman on a nursing recruitment poster makes reference to a common Madonna pose expects to elicit the viewer’s empathy for the suffering soldiers. The woman in the picture is perfectly coiffed and wearing make-up while in her Army fatigues. She also leans against a rifle, a symbol of destruction, which she’s turned into a stand for an I.V. drip. She is a means of repairing the damage done by men during war.
How do illustrators make use of famous images in the general public’s consciousness to convey a message?
“Rosie the Riveter” was the most well-known and most used image in home front war propaganda. The war and lack of male work force produced a need to temporarily undo what women had always been told. Women needed to buy into the idea of becoming a part of the workforce leaving their homes behind during the day to work in jobs that were traditionally filled by males.
Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post Rosie references Michelangelo’s Isaiah (from the Sistine Chapel) as well as Michelangelo’s style of painting masculine women. Michelangelo’s Isaiah actually would have been a part of the public’s collective consciousness at the time. Rockwell wanted to show a Rosie who was capable of doing a “man’s job.” Rosie is also pictured with her feet on top of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, stomping out the Nazis. Rockwell also combines patriotic symbolism along with a red, white and blue color palette. The artist readily admitted to making Rosie look masculine.
His model at the time was 19 year old neighbor, Mary Doyle Keefe. Contrary to Rockwell’s depiction of Rosie his model was quite petite. He did not inform Mary of what his plans were for his Rosie. Mary Doyle Keefe saw the image for the first time on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post and was shocked. Rockwell did call to apologize to Mary saying “I did have to make you into a sort of a giant.”
A giant to show a physical strength that women were not thought to have.
J. Howard Miller’s in-house poster for Westinghouse is currently one of the better known images of that time period. Miller’s poster was not viewed by the general public during the war however it did resurface in the 1980s and became popular.
Does the Equal Rights Amendment mean women can be drafted too?
The ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) was first introduced in 1923 and did not pass. Alice Paul, suffragist leader and founder of the National Woman's Party wrote the ERA. She and the NWP considered the ERA to be the next necessary step after the 19th Amendment (affirming women’s right to vote) in guaranteeing “equal justice under law”
to all citizens.The ERA basically states: equal rights for women will not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state. These rights will be enforceable through the legal system. The ERA would take effect two years after ratification.
During the 1970s, the ERA was passed by Congress. After being passed by Congress the Amendment needed to be ratified by at least 38 states within seven years. After seven years the amendment fell three states short of becoming part of the Constitution.
There was a fear in the 1970s that the ERA would mean the possibility of a draft for women. Congress already had the power to draft women as well as men. During World War II the Senate debated the possibility of drafting nurses in preparation for a possible invasion by Japan. Under federal law men ages 18-24 must register with selective service in the event of a draft. With the ban on women in combat having been lifted in 2013 there has been debate over whether or not women should be registered for selective service.
Were women well received as soldiers at West Point?
In 1970, Colonel Anna Mae Hays, chief of the Army Nurse Corps, became the Army’s first woman Brigadier General. Elizabeth P. Hoisington, Director of the Women’s Army Corps was also promoted to Brigadier General shortly after Hays. The Women’s Army Corps (WACs) the all-female unit of the Army was disbanded in 1978 having started in July of 1942 during WWII.
The passage of legislation in 1975 lead to admission of 119 women (62 of which graduated in 1980) to West Point in 1976. These women soldiers received a far different welcome from their Civil War counterparts who were disguised as men. According to accounts from the first women at West Point, they were not prepared to integrate women into the all-male school.
“Simple things like the bathrooms were not done. They had not decided how they going to do some of the uniforms. They had not properly instructed some of the cadets on how to treat women. So, it was very evident going through it that these people didn’t think we were supposed to be [t]here.”
- Marene (Nyberg) Allison
The women of West Point were treated as women attempting to take on male roles. Much like their Civil War counterparts and the Rosie the Riveters of WWII women put on traditionally male clothing, as opposed to uniforms made for women soldiers, in order to do what was considered a man’s job. The idea of a woman solider was not a fully formed idea with an equal place in military society. Much like the suffragettes this was merely a matter of women attempting to infiltrate traditionally male roles.
The first women of West Point faced resentment and chauvinism. Male cadet reactions ran the gamut. Some ignored the women, some were helpful while others were hostile and difficult. A statement was actually issued by select senior leaders at West Point. This public statement disagreed with the congressional decision to allow women into the traditionally male academies.
With the first women graduates coming out of West Point in 1980 and the 1980 advent of the Be All That You Can Be campaign the military starts to see an increase in women joining the military. This is the first time women were trained alongside of men.
Be All That You Can Be
Campaign: the Army changes its image:
The Be All That You Can Be Campaign is brought about by an effort to change the Army’s image. The Army had been an all-volunteer Army for some time. The Army came to be thought of as a career (enlisted as opposed to officer) choice for undereducated and lower income teenagers with few options. An influx of possible recruits sees men who have committed felony crimes and are without a high school education. The generation of the time does not think of Army service like their parents did. They do not think of the patriotic images of WWI and WWII. They are much more likely to think of the Army in terms of Vietnam. A time when news coverage was beginning to go from non-existent to extensive. This war was televised on evening news, presenting a very different war than WWII. This war was not black and white in the way WWI and WWII were. Stressing duty and honor to a generation who saw duty and honor as antiquated was not a good public relations strategy.
The advertising agency of N.W. Ayer and Son created the Be All You Can Be campaign. N.W. Ayer and Son were also responsible for a number of well-known campaigns. Morton Salt’ “When it rains it pours” and AT&T’s “Reach out and touch someone” are two of their best known campaigns. General Maxwell Thurman was put in charge of working with the ad agency. Thurman and a number of other members of the higher commands of the Army were soldiers from the Vietnam Era. These were the men who would go about building a new type of Army. They would change how the American solider was looked at. Their views on war service differed from their parents’ views. Unlike the vets from WWII they did not return home to a hero’s welcome. They returned home to the oppose reaction. They were vilified, picketed, shouted at, and sometimes even attacked.
During a preview of a Be All That You Can Be commercial at the N.W. Ayer and Son’s offices Thurman makes the agency stop the commercial. The commercial is filled with actors who don’t accurately portray the soldiers of the military. Thurman dresses the agency down for not using real soldiers, minorities and women. This is the direction the new professional Army is going in. An effort is made to include real soldiers in the commercials, including women and minorities to attract a wider selection of candidates. Be All That You Can Be emphasized adventure, upward mobility and an education. The G.I. bill is also reinstated to create a more professional and well educated Army. An excellent strategy considering they are attempting to attract the “me generation”.
The What Some of the Most Successful Women are Wearing This Year (Image 3) poster shows one of the posters used to recruit women to join the Army. The color surrounding the photo is decidedly feminine and very much removed from Army camouflage colors. The slogan plays on how women are traditionally thought of. Much like the WAC posters of WWII there seems to be a need to distinguish this solider from male counterparts and define her in some way as a woman. The female solider (with an intense determined look of concentration on her face) is outfitted in Army gear yet she is still very much recognizable as a woman. Unlike the attempts by the government to make the women of WWII posters look overtly feminine (in full make-up and perfect hair) this solider does not appear to be wearing make-up.
The Army Strong Campaign: How are they targeting their market?
Army Strong is the first time the US military actively recruits women. In the first large scale, multi-media and interactive advertising campaign the Army looks to recruit women and minority soldiers. The Army Strong campaign makes the appeal to be part of something bigger than yourself. Much like the recruiting posters of WWII, Army Strong works to convince candidates that we are all in this together. By offering an opportunity to be a part of a “family” this campaign targets Millennials. The campaign even allows for interacting with soldiers in the field through the Army’s website. It also shares successful career Army women’s personal stories of their experiences with the Army. The Army Strong campaign also targets minority men and women in low income areas.
The Army’s website is not only a multi-media and interactive website, the Army Strong website also has links to the video game America’s Army. Army Strong advertising has been criticized for not touching on what soldiers really do. The Army readily admits that this video game is a recruitment tool. America’s Army was created in 2002. Col. Casey Wardynski, one of America’s Army’s original creators, is quoted as describing the game in this way:
“With America’s Army3, we’re taking military gaming to an all-new level where every detail counts. We want our America’s Army 3 players to have a greater understanding of the Army and its values. Our Soldiers are aspirational figures and our players are able to virtually experience many aspects of a Soldier’s life from their training, to their missions, to the way the Army has influenced their lives.”
Reactions from military personnel have been mixed. Some complain that
does not accurately portray the life of a solider. The images, posters and commercials tend to deal more with making the decision to be a part of the military as opposed to the risks involved in a military career. Commercials also appeal to parents to approve of their daughter’s or son’s decision to join the Army.
also accentuates the positive aspects such as training and education.
The Marine’s WANTED poster (image 4) shows a minority woman who is strong and assured. She is also photographed at an angle that is below eye level, elevating her in stature above the other soldiers. Similar to women who are portrayed as abstract ideas such as liberty and justice. Unlike the ad from Be All the You Can Be there is no appeal to women directly. The ad is directed towards soldiers in general. There isn’t a color palette reference to women. This is a far cry from the women in the posters of WWII.
The Marines are generally thought of as the most masculine branch of the military. She is obviously in charge and all attention is turned towards her. This woman marine is very different from Rockwell’s Rosie. She does not bare a physical resemblance to men to show strength, however it is well conveyed that she is a strong leader.
These images conflict with accounts from women in the Military as recently as 2005. Below is an excerpt from The Women’s Memorial websites oral histories.
“You’d think after twenty-two years and the rank on my shoulder this uniform might command automatic respect. It doesn’t matter if you’re a private or general… if you are a woman, you must prove yourself first. A man is given the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise. You’d think that would change as you go up in rank, but it only gets harder.”
- CW3 Jacqueline Fitch, 2005
As of 2014 95% of all Army occupations have women serving. Most recently the Army has approved opening up all positions in engineer to women. They are very close to approving all positions in field artillery for women. Women represent about 14% for the active duty Army. As of 2014 women accounted for 16.3% of the total. Enlisted women in the military tend to have a higher rate of education than their male counter parts. Enlisted women are more likely to attend college than enlisted men 27% vs. 21%.
On June 29, 2015 three women were approved for training in the Army Rangers, similar to the Navy’s Seals. The three women will provide an assessment of how the military should better integrate women into combat roles. If any of the three women complete the training they will be allowed to join the elite Ranger Regiment which performs raids and other Special Operations missions.