Written by: Carlos Diaz.
Throughout American history women have been involved in wars. During the American Revolution women held the social roles of supportive mothers, sisters, and provided clothing, other services to soldiers. As time progressed women’s primary social role as supportive members to the warring class changed to a social role of care-providing nurses and even cross-dressed as soldiers; this change occurred during the Civil War. World War I the social roles of women varied from physicians to telephone operators. The “Total War” of World War II did push women a little further in terms of the number of women serving in the U.S. military, up to 40,000 servicewomen took part in WWII. In all of these wars American women held supportive social roles as workers in the American industry, nurses, cloth laundering, combat-less positions in the military.
But these supportive social roles prevented women from holding direct combat roles in the military.Not being able to hold positions in the infantry, artillery and other front-line jobs hindered women’s ability to receive veteran benefits and recognition for their valor. But this changed with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta’s decisions to overturn the Pentagon’s ban on women holding combat roles. Although throughout many years and U.S. wars women had served side by side with men, the ban on women serving in combat positions held them back. For example in Iraq and Afghanistan many servicewomen were forced into combat but the military showed no recognition because combat restrictions remained. The overturn of the combat exclusion rule can allow women to further their careers since higher positions are often found in the front-line jobs of the U.S. military.
The social roles of American women in conflict and in wars have expanded throughout years and various conflicts. From originally being limited to supportive roles, women are now becoming leaders within the military social structure. With the prospect of the erasure of the exclusion rule, the social roles of women during war can only continue to expand.