Ruth Handel’s  comments on “Allowing Women on the Front Lines” were published in the New York Times’ Opinion Pages on Friday , January 25, 2013.  Handel’s personal experience of her mother’s service in the Navy during WWI moved her to praise the recent Defense Department move to open combat roles to female soldiers.  Handel’s book of poems – Tugboat Warrior (Dos Madres 2013) explores her mother’s experiences and the effects on her family.  You may read Ruth’s letter below.

To the Editor:

The decision to permit women to serve in combat recognizes reality and advances women’s equality. It is a welcome, although somber, marker in a long struggle that began with the admission of women to the Navy and the Marine Corps in World War I.

My mother, a so-called Yeoman (Female), served in the Navy in that “war to end all wars,” one of 13,000 pioneers needed to release men for shipboard duty. Despite the pressing need for their service, the women were inducted only grudgingly, suffered the indignity of being listed as assigned to a submerged tugboat and struggled to be given honorable discharges and pensions at the end of the war. Opposition to women in combat helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment.

This decision is a corrective.

Scarsdale, N.Y., Jan. 24, 2013

The writer is the author of “Tugboat Warrior,” a book of poems about women in the Navy.

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