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Date of Award
THE MILITARY FEMININE MYSTIQUE: THE WOMEN’S ARMY CORPS’ EVOLUTION FROM A SEPARATE AND UNEQUAL CORPS TO GENDER INTEGRATION INTO THE U.S. ARMY, 1948-1978
byCHRISTINE COOK December 2021 Advisor: Dr. Liette Gidlow Major: History Degree: Doctor of Philosophy The Women’s Army Corps started as a temporary organization but became an official part of the military in 1943. With the passage of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act in 1948, the WAC became a permanent part of the US Army, but WACs did not fully integrate into the Army the same way African Americans integrated. WACs remained segregated in their own Army corps. They faced barriers limiting what they could do and wear. When the WAC organization dissolved in 1978, evolving policies more fully but incompletely integrated women into the military. This study answers the question, “Why did the Army transition from allowing women as part of a separate corps to being part of the greater organization, and how did external and internal pressures during this transition impact women’s role in the Army?” The Military Feminine Mystique is about the integration of women into the Army, and the resistance they faced, from 1948 to 1978. Writers of the 1948 Women’s Armed Services Integration Act built in limits to how women could contribute. Senior military leaders’ attitudes reflected the developing gendered ideologies prevalent in early Cold War American society. This backfired during the Korean War (1950-1953) when WACs took advantage of marriage or childbirth discharges rather than volunteering for the war effort. The Army faced external pressure to expand gender roles during the 1960s. Women volunteered for Vietnam starting in 1965. The treatment of women in the warzone amplified the double standard of WACs as a separate Army workforce. In the 1970s, with the end of the draft and passage and seeming imminent ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, integration into the greater Army accelerated. Women’s rights activists insisted on equal treatment for military women. Senior leaders believed women were the answer to the drop in male recruits during the implementation of the All-Volunteer Force. Others feared too many women would cause mission degradation. When studies proved this fear unwarranted, Congress disestablished the WAC, and women integrated into the Army in 1978. Army senior leaders then created an official Combat Exclusion Policy, barring women from certain influential career specialties.
Cook, Christine C., "The Military Feminine Mystique: The Women’s Army Corps’ Evolution From A Separate And Unequal Corps To Gender Integration Into The U.s. Army, 1948-1978" (2021). Wayne State University Dissertations. 3535.