In Creating GI Jane, Leisa Meyer 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 a rich array of sources including oral histories, army papers, congressional hearings, cartoons, and editorials, Meyer paints nuanced portraits of the experiences of women soldiers against the backdrop of strife and opportunity during the war years. The book chronicles the efforts of the female 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 Meyer 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 Creating GI Jane 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 fresh, provocative analysis, Meyer offers compelling evidence that these struggles had lasting effects on larger civil rights movements that emerged in the postwar years.
Meyer's study of the creation of the Women's Army Corps provides a backdrop against which to read today's headlines detailing sexual misconduct in the military. . . . Meyer offers a richly textured, theoretically informed account of that debate, focusing on the complex and often contradictory arguments articulated by both supporters and opponents of the creation of a formal presence for women in the military.