Professor's book highlights women combat vets

November 4, 2020

Research & Innovation

In honor of Veterans Day, the University is highlighting professors whose scholarship brings attention to veterans and their experiences. One professor’s work explores women in combat serving in the five branches of the armed forces.

“Many Americans don’t quite realize how much the lives of female service members have changed,” said Laura Browder, an American Studies professor whose book “When Janey Comes Marching Home: Portraits of Women Combat Veterans” depicts oral histories alongside photographs by Sascha Pflaeging. Browder conducted interviews about loss, comradeship, conflict, and hard choices.

War photography traditionally focuses on men as heroes, she said, but American society hasn’t really looked at the issue of mothers in combat. Her compilation of female soldiers’ photographs and narratives, some of whom are mothers, strives to change fixed ideas of Americans at war.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, women were busting down doors, serving as convoy gunners, and flying B-52s.
headshot of Laura Browder
Laura Browder

Tyler and Alice Haynes Professor of American Studies

The Women's Armed Services Integration Act of 1948 allowed women to serve as permanent members in all branches of the military, but they were officially barred from combat positions until 2013. Because of few distinctions between front lines and rear support in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in which over 300,000 women served, Browder said, the ban on combat had been meaningless.

“Up until the late ’70s, women in the Army had to take etiquette classes and had make-up class in basic training,” she said. “In Iraq and Afghanistan, women were busting down doors, serving as convoy gunners, and flying B-52s. However, our country has not fully grappled with the implications of women’s service.”

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See more UR professors’ veteran-related research