Thursday, December 9, 2021

Tanya L. Roth's "Her Cold War"

Tanya L. Roth received her Ph.D. in history from Washington University. She teaches history at Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School.

Roth applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Her Cold War: Women in the U.S. Military, 1945–1980, and reported the following:
Open Her Cold War to page 99, and you’ll find yourself on the last page of chapter 4, which focuses on women's jobs in the Cold War military. The partial opening paragraph on the page focuses on rank limitations and why they existed. The chapter concludes with this argument:
As long as women had access to jobs deemed suitable for their sex, military leaders believed they offered women equality with men, and few people questioned this conception of equality. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, however, servicewomen and their advocates would bring that definition under fire.
I’m excited to see that thai is where things end on page 99 of Her Cold War, because this page truly gets at the heart of the book. Her Cold War hones in on the contradiction mentioned above: that in the Cold War, the US military offered women careers based on equality with men, but when we look at these opportunities today, it’s not what we think of when we envision equality. Equality is not a fixed concept: it has a history, too. If you opened Her Cold War to page 99, then, the final paragraph in particular gives you an incredibly clear picture of what this book is about.

Because page 99 begins in media res - not just because it’s in the middle of the book, but also because it’s the last page of a chapter - the first paragraph might not jump out at you. It has details on the highest ranks servicewomen could achieve, but by itself, this might not yet make sense. It’s the full paragraph on the page that really matters if you want to understand Her Cold War as a whole. On this page alone, you’ll find several of the questions that drive the book. Why couldn’t women hold certain military jobs? What did “equality” mean for servicewomen? When and how did things change?

Today, women in uniform are no longer a novelty. They also don’t face the same limitations servicewomen had in the Cold War. Yet it’s only been in the past decade that gender-based restrictions have been eliminated in the US military. Why did it take so long? Read Her Cold War to find out.
Visit Tanya L. Roth's website.

--Marshal Zeringue