Women Enter the Military
In 1980, the first women graduated from
the service academies as a result of Public Law 94-106 signed
by President Gerald Ford on October 7, 1975. The law passed
the House by a vote of 303 to 96 and the Senate by voice vote
after divisive argument within Congress, resistance from the
Department of Defense and legal action initiated by women to
challenge their exclusion.
service academies first admitted women in 1976, more than 300 women
enrolled at the US Military Academy, US Naval Academy, US Air Force
Academy and the US Coast Guard Academy. Male prejudice against women
at the academies proved to be their biggest obstacle.
The schools reconfigured barracks, dormitories
and locker space and adapted some physical education requirements.
Even though women were still excluded from combat and from serving
on naval vessels, academy curricula prepared them for these roles
in the nation's defense.
1980, 66 percent of the women in the first coeducational classes
graduatedcomparable to 70 percent of the men whose attrition
rate due to academic failure was twice that of women. But women
service academy graduates posed new issues for the armed services.
Would gender-based law and policy limit the careers of these highly
qualified new officers?