Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Between 1964 and 1975, approximately 7,500 to 11,000 American military women served in the Vietnam War. They served in many roles – they worked as air traffic controllers, dieticians, physiotherapists, clerks, and cryptographers – but the bulk of American women who went to Vietnam served as military nurses with the Army, Navy, and Air Force Nurse Corps. This dissertation explores the wartime and homecoming experiences of female nurse veterans whose Vietnam experiences have been largely ignored or minimized by historical accounts of the war. By refashioning the narrative of the war to include women, this study challenges cultural constructions of war as an exclusively male sphere, and in doing so offers a more sophisticated understanding of both men’s and women’s Vietnam service.
In Vietnam, American women risked their lives for their country. Motivated by a blend of patriotism, humanitarianism, professional advancement, and educational opportunity, female nurses volunteered for war at a time when many young men sought to evade military service. Yet the women who served have been consistently denied the rewards of their sacrifice. After the war, sexist attitudes about who is eligible for the privileges which accompany military service led the VA to routinely deny veterans entitlements including health care and disability pensions to female military nurses. Efforts to memorialize the war, through their focus on male veterans’ experience, relegated women’s service in Vietnam to the periphery of public memory. Based primarily on oral history interviews with 29 female military nurses who served in the war, this dissertation reveals women’s agency through an exploration of their responses to these and other gendered challenges associated with their military service, and exposes the connection between public memory and women’s access to the benefits bestowed upon martial citizens.
Moulton, Natasha L., "“SERVE YOURSELF AND YOUR COUNTRY”: THE WARTIME AND HOMECOMING EXPERIENCES OF AMERICAN FEMALE MILITARY NURSES WHO SERVED IN THE VIETNAM WAR" (2012). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 7521.
McMaster University Library
Available for download on Thursday, September 26, 2013