when pigs fly … expect the unbelievable

Archive for February 2009

In 1980, a federal district court in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, determined that “classifications based upon gender, not unlike those based upon race, have traditionally been the touchstone for pervasive and often subtle discrimination.” Goldberg v. Rostker, 509 F. Supp. 586 (E.D. Pa. 1980).  In so doing, the 3 judge panel found the Military Selective Service Act of 1980 in violation of the 5th Amendment to the Constitution in that women were not included in compulsory registration for the draft.

While the decision of this Court was quickly overturned — and the legal analysis that the Supreme Court applied will be another topic for another day — I found an exchange between Judge Max Rosenn (who had enlisted in WWII in 1944 and eventually served on the staff of General Douglass MacAuthur in the Philippines), serving as Chief of the 3 judge panel, and William Elliott, representing the US Department of Justice:

Elliott:  Even in an age of nuclear weapons, war connotes combat between armed adversaries….Women cannot engage in combat….

Rosenn:  My experience in Domestic Relations Court is that they can fight!

And the United States Armed Services of the 21st Century has confirmed what Judge Rosenn knew.

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This may be a series….I am currently taking a class called Gender and Work, and as a result, I’m writing a paper on women in the military (actually, the title is a little longer and not nearly as broad, but it’s about women in the military).  There are so many fascinating little tidbits that I have picked up about women in such a historically gendered institution as the United States Armed Forces.  I will be sharing for days….weeks….

During the civil war, women served in supporting roles in both the Union Army and the Confederacy.  Nurses staffed government and regimental hospitals; the more spirited disguised themselves as men and fought on the front lines.  While, as in the Revolutionary War, there were many “camp followers” — wives, sisters and, yes, prostitutes — who served as cooks, laudresses and the like, there were also women spies and, in one Union regimental hospital, an Acting Assistant Surgeon.

Women always come to the fore in times of crisis.  And in times of crisis, they are accepted for what they can do.  Both during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, women — though not traditionally serving in the combat troops — kept the country together, kept the army together, and kept the revolutionary spirit of America together.

Then, when wars are over — when crisis has past — women return to their domestic spheres, it seems.

A quick look at women in resistence movements demonstrates that women are essential to the success of such movements.  A quick look at women in movements of civil disobedience (notably the movements led by Ghandi and King) demonstrates that women are essntial to the success of these movements as well.  And there is not a priest or pastor in this land who will tell you that their church, parish or synagog would run smoothly without the women who are the working life-blood of the spiritual community.

So, when crisis has past, why do women step back?

Molly Corbin is probably better known to us as Molly Pitcher, although by the Continental Congress she was known as Captain Molly.  Her husband, John Corbin, was killed in the defense of Fort Washington.  She assumed his post and continued his fight.  She was subsequently wounded in the defense of Fort Washington. 

On July 6, 1779, the Continental Congress awarded Molly Corbin funds which equaled one-half of a soldier’s pay and one suit of clothes.

Molly is buried at West Point.

Women did not receive permanent military status until the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1948.  Passed by the House and Senate in the 80th Congress, President Truman signed it into law on June 12, 1948.  This act was shepherded through Congress by Senator Margaret Chase Smith, serving in her first term as a Senator (having formerly served as a Congressman from Maine) and a member of the Armed Services Committee.

Senator Smith was adored by Georgia Senator Richard Russell (who called her “Sis”) and was respected by Senator John C. Stennis.  Stennis had initially had some reservations about women in the House and Senate (he had only been elected in ’47 himself, so he and Senator Smith were “baby senators” together) but he soon discarded those reservations when he realized what a competent and thorough indidivual she was.

The Women’s Armed Services Integration Act capped the number of women in military service at 2% of each division — Army, Navy, Marine Corp and Air Force, both regular and reserve troops.  This 2% limitation was not dropped until 1967.

Saturday’s events included “Women in Business and Marketing” by Bethany L. Cooper, “Yes You Can! – A Positive Approach to Lawyering” by Richard Courtney, Esquire, and “Ethical Aspects of Marketing” by LaVerne Edney, Esquire.  Just as on Friday, each of these presentations were terrific.

After the Gandy was over, I was invited to Judge Ginny Mounger’s Oxford “bungalow” for an afternoon reception with lawyer friends in the Oxford area.  Thereafter, I had the pleasure of dining at Waltz, on the Square, with Judge Deneise Lott, Marjorie O’Donnell, Esquire, Nina Tollison, Esquire and President-elect of the Mississippi Bar, The Honorable Allan Alexander, U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Northern District of Mississippi, and Professor Farrish Tollison of the Ole Miss Law School.

Home now and looking back, the Gandy was terrific, as always.

Breakfast is closing down….speakers today include Bethany L. Cooper, Director of Corporate Relations and MBA Services at Ole Miss, Richard Courtney, Esquire, from Franscogna Courtney PLLC and LaVerne Edny, Esquire from Brunini, each speaking about the interrelation of marketing and public service.

I realized that by blogging in the manner that I did yesterday, I missed a lot of the emotion in the room.  I have decided today to merely make notes and add a post later.  I hope that does not disappoint anyone.  More later.

Please be aware that the post comments are mine.  I have tried to capture the content of the speakers’ comments, but the comments are mine.  Theyhave not been approved by the speakers, although the speakers are aware that I am blogging their comments.  Thanks!

And now, on to the reception……


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