Army Wives

August 04, 2008

Someone told me this show was worth watching at least once, given my Army background. My mother and grandmother were military wives, and I was definitely an “Army brat.” As I watched Army Wives last week, I couldn’t help thinking about the changing roles of women in the military, whether those serving or those who were or are spouses.

I watched the story unfold and wondered what the conversation would have been if my grandmother (my father’s mother) and mother were sitting with me. My grandmother’s wedding announcement in 1917 included the full rank of my grandfather (Capt, USMC, attached to the USS Florida) and the fact that “The wedding, which was to have taken place in December, was hastened on account of the orders of the Captain.” Her first letter from the “Cap” began, “This old ship is wallowing along through a sea so rough it would make the Blue Ridge Mountains look like a billiard table.” Later letters show her worried about the children’s health, bills, and boredom, while he discussed how much he missed her and the adventures he experienced — in his mind a man who never “worried his wife” about stuff like war details.

My grandmother, a graduate of Smith College, was one of the first women chemists at Dow. After a few years, she quit to get married and raise a family, because “it was the thing to do.” On the other hand, my mother was not allowed to go to college because “that’s not what nice girls do.” She married my father, a West Point graduate, and became an Army wife. She later chafed at the roles officers’ wives were expected to assume and, through strength and determination, became one of the first women bond salesmen (as in stocks and bonds) on the West Coast. She would be thrilled with the passage of the new G.I. Bill, especially as it offers, among other things, the opportunity to transfer benefits to immediate family members.

Back to the show, I think my mother and grandmother would appreciate how far women in the military, and women in general, have come. The spouses clearly have their own lives, while still facing the challenges (and benefits) of being part of the military. They would have enjoyed the fact that a woman officer and her spouse are also part of the story. They would have listened with delight to my stories of U.S. Army Brigadier General Evelyn “Pat” Foote, recent NCCSWL award winner, and read with interest our blog on Remembering Women Soldiers. At the same time, while they would rejoice at the changes, I know they would be putting on their activist hats once again and saying, “Let’s go finish the job!”

By:   |   August 04, 2008

2 Comments

  1. christyjones says:

    Just as we posted this blog, I learned of an a CNN article, “Sexual assualt in military ‘jaw-dropping,’ lawmaker says“. Rep. Jane Harman, D-California, spoke before a House panel investigating on how sexual assualts are handled by the military.

    While we can’t forget the gains women have made in (or connected to) the military, immediate attention and action must be paid to the serious problem areas which remain. Thousands have downloaded copy of AAUW’s research, Drawing the Line – Sexual Harrasment on College Campus, including military institutions. Maybe they should make it required reading for all military leadership.

  2. For 11 years, I was a “Navy wife” — in the late ’70s and early ’80s. My husband was not deployed on a ship; but rather deployed to tour the country 60 days per year with the Navy Band via bus. For his last tour – I joined him for a couple of days. I rented a car, so that we could follow the bus but have some privacy. One of the band members had a minor accident – and my car was ‘commandeered’ to take the band member to the hospital!! When the band (mostly male) was on tour – we had no additional Navy support, but this was the first experience I had with the strength of women bonding. If someone got sick; we were there for her; if someone had an emergency (financial, something in the house ALWAYS broke) – we were there. Even though it’s been 20 years, my bond with those ladies is still strong. The military forced us to be independent because of the lack of support. And that impacts us to this day.

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