Women in the Military

Reina Pennington

in Military History

ISBN: 9780199791279
Published online February 2012 | | DOI:
Women in the Military

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  • Pre-20th Century Warfare
  • First World War
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Women have played a variety of military roles throughout history, although many historians overlooked those roles until recently. Other disciplines, such as anthropology and sociology, have sometimes paid more attention to the experiences of women in the military. Fortunately, historians have begun to devote more attention to the subject. In order to understand women’s military roles today, we must know what women have done in the past. It is essential to study women’s military experiences and their participation in war throughout history in order to provide context and evidence to current assessments and debates. Beyond that, no historical understanding of war can be complete without awareness of the actual context in which war occurred, and knowledge of all groups that have been part of military institutions. In historical terms, women’s military participation has generally been either at the highest or lowest levels. Female leaders, from Boudicca to Golda Meir, played important roles in military history. But the majority of women served in the lower ranks, often informally or in disguise. The resulting lack of documentary sources means that the history of women’s military activity is prone to mythologizing (both positive and negative) and argument unsupported by evidence. Scholarly works that use a range of corroborating sources and critically examine those sources are still relatively rare. Works on the modern era have a stronger documentary base than those on earlier times, but good scholars can ask the right questions and offer sound interpretations for any time period.

Article.  7008 words. 

Subjects: Military History ; Pre-20th Century Warfare ; First World War ; Second World War ; Post-WW2 Military History

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