Women in the Barracks: The VMI Case and Equal Rights

TitleWomen in the Barracks: The VMI Case and Equal Rights
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsStrum, Philippa
Number of Pages435
PublisherUniversity Press of Kansas

In June 2001, there was a decidedly new look to the graduating class at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). For the first time ever, the line of graduates who received their degrees at the "West Point of the South" included women who had spent four years at VMI. For 150 years, VMI had operated as a revered, state-funded institution--an amalgam of Southern history, military tradition, and male bonding rituals--and throughout that long history, no one had ever questioned the fact that only males were admitted. Then in 1989 a female applicant complained of discrimination to the Justice Department, which brought suit the following year to integrate women into VMI. In a book that poses serious questions about equal rights in America, the author traces the origins of this landmark case back to VMI's founding, its evolution over fifteen decades, and through competing notions about women's proper place. Unlike most works on women in military institutions, this one also provides a complete legal history--from the initial complaint to final resolution in United States v. Virginia --and shows how the Supreme Court's ruling against VMI reflected changing societal ideas about gender roles. This volume is a case study that combines both legal and cultural history, reviewing the long history of male elitism in the military as it explores how new ideas about gender equality have developed in the United States. 

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