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00913847.1977.11710586

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The Physician and Sportsmedicine
ISSN: 0091-3847 (Print) 2326-3660 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ipsm20
The Capabilities of Women
Allan J. Ryan
To cite this article: Allan J. Ryan (1977) The Capabilities of Women, The Physician and
Sportsmedicine, 5:6, 29-29, DOI: 10.1080/00913847.1977.11710586
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00913847.1977.11710586
Published online: 11 Jul 2016.
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The Capabilities of Women
During World War II
women were accepted in the
US armed forces as WACs,
WA YES, WAFs, and
Marines to replace men in
noncombat positions so that
they could be sent to the
front lines. Women had been
employed as civilians by
the Army and Navy in
previous wars, chiefly as
clerks and typists, but there
was never any question
of using women as combat
troops or giving them equal
military status, despite both
ancient and modern
precedents for this in other countries. True, a few
women had disguised themselves as men and served
in the Civil War and possibly other engagements,
and Mollie Pitcher probably did help to man a gun
briefly at the Battle of Monmouth. Why were things
different in this country from others?
The original Amazons, who were part of a
legendary race first identified in southeastern Europe
around the Black Sea, are thought to have come
from around the Sea of Azov farther east and may
have been related to the mysterious Celts who began
to overrun Europe in that period. The scope and
particularity of the accounts of later Greek historians
of their wars with the other Balkan tribes mitigates
against these stories being purely legend. It seems
unlikely that the Amazons had a purely matriarchal
society, but they were probably an important part of a
formidable fighting force. The ancient tribes of
Dahomey on the west coast of Africa were known
by Europeans as early as the seventeenth century to
have maintained a regiment of fighting women who
were considered to be more fierce and effective than
the men. The explorer R. F. Burton, who observed
them in simulated combat, described them as
remarkable for their bravery and endurance. They
were disbanded when the French took over their
country. In more modern times, women have been
absorbed into the armies of developing countries.
JUNE 1977
In Japan, the arts of unarmed combat, formerly
all classified under the heading of jiujitsu, which for
many centuries had been an exclusive practice of
the samurai class, were taught to both women and
men, although only the men fought in the many
battles between the clans. When the feudal system
was abolished at the end of the last century, the
martial arts were opened to the whole country and
women continued to learn and practice their skills.
What held up equality for women in the US
armed forces was much less male chauvinism than a
genuine concern that they would be unable to meet
the rigorous physical demands of military life in
field and combat conditions. The virtual explosion
of sports opportunities and activities which has
resulted from the women's liberation movement
demonstrated that with proper training women were
fully capable of vigorous and demanding physical
exercise and that they were not more susceptible,
pound for pound, to serious or disabling injury than
men. The general public's realization of these facts was
a major factor in the passage of the 1975 legislation
authorizing the admission of women to the military
academies.
It is significant that among the 63 volunteers from
high schools who participated in the study by
Tomasi reported in this issue (page 32) only 3 had
not been members of at least one sports team. Only
three failed the exacting military academy physical
examination and only two had to drop out during
the initial testing. The results of this study indicate
that women are capable of undertaking the
demanding plebe physical training at the academy,
and the investigators concluded that "women are far
better performers than the literature suggests."
Those of us who have followed women athletes over
the years when they were much less numerous and
visible in the United States, but much more in
evidence abroad, have always known this.
~J~~
Allan J. Ryan, MD
Editor-in-Chief
29
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