In This Review

First Class: Women Join the Ranks at the Naval Academy
First Class: Women Join the Ranks at the Naval Academy
By Sharon Hanley Disher
Naval Institute Press, 1998, 362 pp

The introduction of women into the mainstream of the American military constitutes perhaps the greatest cultural and organizational change of the last half-century -- a more dramatic shift even than racial integration in 1948 or the end of the draft in 1973. Women had served during World War II in separate corps, such as that still in place in the Israel Defense forces. Beginning in the mid-1970s, women have become, slowly but surely, part of the regular military establishment. The author graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1980, and this is an account of her experiences there. She remains fond and respectful of that troubled institution, although, reading some of her experiences, one occasionally marvels at her loyalty. Unlike today's women midshipmen, her generation had few role models and faced stony hostility from their male counterparts. The service academies are quite different places than they were two decades ago. Young men and women being what they are, however, one suspects that the mixing of genders in a military environment will never be a simple matter.