Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 1974


The overseas U.S. military base presents movement women with a complex and essentially hostile environment. The needs of four very different categories of women must be addressed: (1) women in uniform; (2) wives and daughters of servicemen; (3) wives and daughters of civil service employees; and (4) career civil service women. Since the "daughters" form a psychologically distinct group, they perhaps deserve their own niche. The picture is further complicated (and enriched) by the presence of numerous "host country" women who hold down a variety of jobs on base.

The "dependent wife," whether from the second or third category, experiences most fully the debilitating effects of the system. The military wife is expected to further her husband's career by bearing the children he needs to present a properly "stable" image; by living up to the standards of consumption and social propriety set by the base commander's wife; by "serving the community" in various voluntary activities; and by learning the role of "the beautiful one who waits" which is presented to her from a thousand subliminal sources. But she cannot open her own account at the base banking facility, at least not without her "sponsor's" signature. Her sexual conduct, drinking habits, personal appearance, and "fitness as a mother" are all scrutinized as part of the evaluations which determine his military promotion schedule. She must learn to speak as the wife of Captain So-and-So when requesting furniture or repairs. She is discriminated against in the use of athletic facilities. Her husband has the right to deprive her of her driver's license.

In theory, the dependent wife should thus be extraordinarily open to liberating forces. But since massive and expensive institutional structures depend on her willingness to internalize her role, comparable psychological pressures to conform are exerted on her. In sheer practical terms, feminist organizers face the discouraging facts of (1) the nearly absolute power of the base commander over buildings and grounds and (2) the incredible mobility of the military community. For a dependent wife to reach out to her sisters requires an extraordinary amount of courage.



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