First Class: Women Join the Ranks at the Naval Academy

First Class: Women Join the Ranks at the Naval Academy

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by Sharon Hanley Disher
     
 

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When Sharon Hanley Disher entered the U.S. Naval Academy with eighty other young women in 1976, she helped end a 131-year all-male tradition at Annapolis. Her entertaining and shocking account of the women's four-year effort to join the academy's elite fraternity and become commissioned naval officers is a valuable chronicle of the times, and her insights have… See more details below

Overview


When Sharon Hanley Disher entered the U.S. Naval Academy with eighty other young women in 1976, she helped end a 131-year all-male tradition at Annapolis. Her entertaining and shocking account of the women's four-year effort to join the academy's elite fraternity and become commissioned naval officers is a valuable chronicle of the times, and her insights have been credited with helping us understand the challenges of integrating women into the military services. From the punishing crucible of plebe summer to the triumph of graduation, she describes their search for ways to survive the mental and physical hurdles they had to overcome. Unflinchingly frank, she freely discusses the prejudice and abuse they encountered that often went unpunished or unreported. A loyal Navy supporter, nevertheless, Disher provides a balanced account of life behind the academy's storied walls for that first group of teenaged women who charted the way for future female midshipmen. Lively, well researched, and amazingly good humored, the book seems as fresh today as it was when first published in hardcover in 1998.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In the summer of 1976, Disher was among the 81 women who were the first females to enter the hallowed U.S. Naval Academy. Disher stuck out the tough regimen and graduated with her class, then served in the Navy Civil Engineer Corps. Here, she recounts what it was like for that first group of Naval Academy women: "I write this book to document history," she states. Following the group on a near-daily basis, Disher reports not her own experience but that of two classmates, Sarah Becker and Kate Brigman. The women endure the predictable embarrassments and goofs at the hands of an institution unaccustomed to having females in its midst. They must announce their bra sizes to attendants passing out military-issue everything. They must march and run while wearing three-inch heels, and must endure the taunts of male classmates furious at having their bastion invaded. Eventually, Becker begins an illicit relationship with an upperclassman that could jeopardize their fledgling Navy careers. Rather than examine why two young people would place themselves at such risk, however, and what that meant regarding Becker's role as a pioneering female, Disher reports the affair in bodice-ripping detail: "He stood beside her, slim, tanned and shirtless.... She tried not to stare at the soft, thin line of hair growing from his belly button to the top of his fly...." The adventures of Brigman are accorded similar treatment. Neither of these women will feel repercussions from appearing in Disher's narrative, however. It turns out that Becker is a pseudonym, and Brigman is a composite character. This is a disappointing work, with too much adolescent fantasy romance mixed into its history. (May)
Booknews
From the perspective of the second woman in the Navy to hold the position of officer of a Seabee unit, Disher draws upon personal papers and recent interviews to illuminate the 1976-1980 experiences of the 81 women to break the 131-year all-male tradition of the US Naval Academy at Annapolis. No index. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781591142164
Publisher:
Naval Institute Press
Publication date:
07/28/2013
Series:
Bluejacket Books
Pages:
376
Sales rank:
961,203
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

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William P. Lawrence
A most entertaining and absorbing work.

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