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Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Department of History
Public Law-106, which authorized the admittance of women into the five federal service academies, was historically significant as it reversed the previous male-only policy at the nation’s premier military leadership institutions. Its 1975 passage reflected the groundwork established by military women as well as two decades of feminist activism in America. The entrance of women at the service academies clearly challenged the existing norms for women’s roles in the military and arguably in American society as well; furthermore, an analysis of primary source documents and oral histories provides insight into how men and women at the Air Force Academy confronted radically new conceptions of gender roles in society. This analysis is particularly relevant as existing scholarship concerning the integration of women at the Air Force Academy has largely ignored men’s and women’s own perceptions and responses to their academy experiences. In studying the integration process at the Air Force Academy, my methodological approach places great value in centering women’s voices in this story; therefore, this work will incorporate many of the existing oral histories of female cadets as well as recently gathered oral histories from women who graduated from the Air Force Academy during the integration period. By interrogating these individual cadet experiences within the larger historical context of the integration period, this work yields a deeper understanding of what it meant to be a man and a woman at this moment of radical change at the Air Force Academy. Why did men reject women as cadets? What motivated women to become cadets? How did women create a space for themselves within this rigid masculine environment? Beyond the now-familiar narratives about male close-mindedness and chauvinism, this study explores the cultural context in which men and women encountered one another in the service academies. Men and women at the Air Force Academy grappled with the integration process in unique ways; this present work focuses on how both men and women actively negotiated and renegotiated their perceptions of masculine and feminine identity during this period of momentous organizational change at the Air Force Academy.
Underwood, Amelia Frances, "Failure of imagination: Gender integration and negotiated identities at the United States Air Force Academy" (2013). Masters Theses. 353.