Creating GI Jane: Sexuality and Power in the Women's Army Corps During World War II

TitleCreating GI Jane: Sexuality and Power in the Women's Army Corps During World War II
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication1996
AuthorsMeyer, Leisa D.
Number of Pages260
PublisherColumbia University Press
CityNew York

This book chronicles the efforts of the female Women's Army Corps (WAC) administration to counter public controversy by controlling the type of women recruited and regulating service-women's behavior. Reflecting and reinforcing contemporary sexual stereotypes, the WAC administration recruited the most "respectable" white middle-class women, limited the number of women of color, and screened against lesbian enlistments. As the author demonstrates, the military establishment also upheld current sex and race occupational segregation, assuring the public that women were in the military to do "women's work" within it, and resisting African-American women's protests against their relegation to menial labor. Yet this volume is also the story of how, in spite of a palpable climate of repression, many women effectively carved out spaces and seized opportunities in the early WAC. African-American women and men worked together in demanding civil rights deriving from military service. Lesbians found the military simultaneously dangerous and conducive to community formation during and after the war. In this analysis, the author offers compelling evidence that these struggles had lasting effects on larger civil rights movements that emerged in the postwar years. The author traces the roots of a cultural anxiety at the core of the American psyche, providing the historical perspective needed to understand the controversies still surrounding the gendered military. Drawing upon an array of sources including oral histories, army papers, congressional hearings, cartoons, and editorials, the author paints portraits of the experiences of women soldiers against the backdrop of strife and opportunity during the war years.

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