Women in the Armed Forces: A Guide to the Issues is a fantastic piece of scholarly work. Not only is it a very well-written historical account of women’s service in the various branches of the US military from the Revolutionary War to the present, it is also an unvarnished and unbiased look at the many issues that women have and continue to face when serving in the military. This book has a tremendous amount of detailed information that documents both the successes and challenges faced by women throughout history in the U.S. military services. The author, who has lived through some challenging experiences during her illustrious naval career, has taken great care to identify and discuss such issues as: the combat exclusion laws and why they are out-of-date given the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, gender and sexual harassment (why it happens and what MUST be done to stop it), and the delicate balancing act that military women must face between family and military commitments. She does not sugarcoat the issues, instead she lays out the facts and offers real world solutions.
On a personal note I feel that Women in the Armed Forces: A Guide to the Issues is SPOT on with the issues that servicewomen have been and continue to fight against to have equality in the military. As a USN veteran, who was among the very first women to be assigned to a combat squadron that deployed with the USS Eisenhower shortly after the combat exclusion laws were repealed in 1993, I read it and thought of the barriers I had to fight against during my service….of the sexual harassment I faced, of the stereotyping and the refusal to allow me to do certain jobs because I was female in a traditionally male role, and of the difficult decisions I had to make regarding starting a family and dealing with deployment. As the author of Breastfeeding in Combat Boots: A Survival Guide to Successful Breastfeeding While Serving in the Military, a book for active duty military women who wish to breastfeed their children, I particularly found the section on family issues and the military to be of value. I also enjoyed reading the historical accounts of the many women who have served in the military and of their exploits and feats of bravery and courage, many going unnoticed. These stories offer a glimpse into the lives of women who have shattered stereotypes and made it possible for the women serving now to follow in their footsteps.
The book is a meticulously researched and well-sourced with an excellent bibliography for further study. It is scholarly, but written in a warm, engaging and very readable style. I would recommend this book for individuals who are looking for a well-written and detailed look at the issues face our military women. While the content is ‘woman-specific’ – it should be required reading for all officers and senior enlisted currently serving in all the branches as it will give them insight into how to better work with and manage the female personnel under their command. Furthermore this book is a good foundation for junior military personnel, officer and enlisted, to gain an insight into the issues facing women today from those who have paved the way, and hopefully make the needed changes as outlined in the book so that all women in the military can serve as equals with the men.