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In the Company of Men: A Woman at the Citadel

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When Nancy Mace entered The Citadel, the United States government had just recently overturned the ruling that women were not allowed to enter the "Core of Cadets." Having grown up in a military family, Nancy was not unfamiliar with the harsh realities of military life. Her father, a brigadier general, had graduated from The Citadel and her older sister was a military graduate, but it would be Nancy's journey alone. And as many a knob has found out, life inside the dazzling white ramparts of this famous fortress ...
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When Nancy Mace entered The Citadel, the United States government had just recently overturned the ruling that women were not allowed to enter the "Core of Cadets." Having grown up in a military family, Nancy was not unfamiliar with the harsh realities of military life. Her father, a brigadier general, had graduated from The Citadel and her older sister was a military graduate, but it would be Nancy's journey alone. And as many a knob has found out, life inside the dazzling white ramparts of this famous fortress is far from pleasant. Upon entering those grand gates, Nancy Mace soon found out that she wasn't just fighting the tradition of the corps, but the culture and city that surrounded it.

Steeped in tradition and lore, the grand bastion known as El Cid is considered one of the South's most infamous and controversial institutions. Built in 1842, it has turned out a unique brand of Southern man -- and now woman. This is the true first-person account of a young woman's battle to be a part of the long gray line.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
PW called the chronicle of Mace's experience as the first female cadet ever to graduate from the Citadel a "narrative studded with hard-hitting details. Ultimately a story of triumph." All ages. (Sept.)
Publishers Weekly
In a narrative studded with hard-hitting details, the collaborators chronicle Mace's life as the first female cadet ever to graduate from The Citadel, Charleston's almost 160-year-old military college. After a rather slow-moving account of her childhood years, the narrative picks up the pace significantly, shifting the focus to Mace's experiences at the college. From day one, Mace was under constant media scrutiny. She assiduously avoids self-pity as she describes at times in raw and racy yet realistic language the "racking," or harassment, she endured as a first-year "knob." Though she acknowledges this treatment by upperclassmen "was just part of the system," she also notes that she was at times clearly targeted because of her gender. After her brigadier general father was appointed Commandant of the Corps at the college during her second semester, she was "no longer just hazed for being a girl, but also for being my father's daughter." Yet despite a grueling physical regimen and the emotional toll these intimidation tactics took, this highly personal story is ultimately one of triumph. The events prove more compelling than the writing itself, which can be repetitive and rather meandering, but readers curious about the inner workings of the military will be caught up in Mace's experience. The book will likely have crossover sales in the adult market, especially in the South. Ages 13-up. (Nov.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Although Shannon Faulkner paved the way under court order for women to attend the Citadel, the formerly all-male military academy in Charleston, South Carolina, author Mace was the first woman to actually graduate in 1995. Mace possessed all of the attributes one might consider necessary to her success in the military—she is the daughter of a highly decorated brigadier-general, himself an alumnus of the Citadel;is the sister of two women who are West Point graduates;is a superb athlete;and possesses a fierce sense of independence and competitiveness. Nevertheless she had to work harder and be better at everything just to be accepted even at the most basic level. Mace's story of her three years at the Citadel is riveting. Her portrayal of the rigorous physical and mental expectations at a military academy leave the reader almost exhausted. Mace spends about three-quarters of the book describing her first year, in which cadets are treated as almost subhuman. Readers unfamiliar with military tradition will find this book intriguing. Black-and-white photos illustrate life at the academy. The appendix includes letters and e-mails that Mace sent to her family as well as orientation documents, schedules, lists of supplies, and a layout of her dorm room. Written informally in the first person, this book will draw readers in immediately. Teens of any age will enjoy the story. Those teens interested in attending a military college definitely should pick it up. Pair this book with Amy Efaw's fictional account of life for women at West Point, Battle Dress (HarperCollins, 2000/VOYA October 2000). Illus. Photos. Appendix. VOYA CODES:4Q 5P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasionallapses;Every YA (who reads) was dying to read it yesterday;Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8;Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9;Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, Simon & Schuster, 240p, $18. Ages 11 to 18. Reviewer:Linda Roberts—VOYA, December 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 5)
Children's Literature
This is the autobiography of Nancy Mace, who in 1999 became the first female graduate of The Citadel Military Academy, in Charleston, South Carolina. After the courts ordered "El Cid," as it is known, to open its doors to women, Nancy Mace, along with three other females, was admitted to the storied institution in 1996. For three years she endured a grueling schedule of academic, physical and military training. The book emphasizes Ms. Mace's first year as a "knob," the term for first year students, named for the required short haircuts. In addition to a strenuous day to day schedule, Ms. Mace had to brave good natured ribbing as well as flat out cruelty because of her sex. Not only was she able to succeed where many young men have failed, she was able to excel, graduating with honors. For any young person, male or female, who might be thinking, "I can't do that," the achievements of Nancy Mace should serve as an inspiration of what one can accomplish with courage and determination. An Appendix is included, containing memorabilia and correspondence from Ms. Mace's Citadel years. 2001, Simon & Schuster, $18.00. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Christopher Moning
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-In this autobiographical account of one of the first two female graduates of The Citadel, Mace relives both the grueling emotional experiences and occasional supportive moments of her undergraduate years. She struggled through her youth with attention deficit disorder and depression. The daughter of "The Citadel's most decorated living graduate," the young woman was determined to prove herself by breaking the gender barrier at the college. She never grew accustomed to the media attention focused on her, extending from freshman Hell Week to the senior Ring Ceremony. Although threats from outsiders and harassment by fellow male cadets followed her for the three years of her compressed college experience (1996-1999), she stoically faced the dissenters, achieved noteworthy standing, and refused to withdraw. The book is written with clarity and energy. Black-and-white family photographs, personal memorabilia, and letters are included. Mace is a survivor who seems to have had more to prove to herself than society. Nonetheless, readers interested in women's firsts may be interested.-Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
Pat Conroy author of The Lords of Discipline and The Prince of Tides, and Citadel alumnus, Class of 1967 Nancy Mace has written a wonderful, timeless memoir of the great test to become the first female graduate of The Citadel. Her book is provocative, hilarious, illuminating, and true. It is also a love letter to her college and the best book about The Citadel ever written.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689840029
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 11/1/2001
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 256
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 1060L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.28 (w) x 9.36 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author

Nancy Mace entered The Citadel in 1996 and after three years became the first female graduate of the South Carolina military college. She is the daughter of Army Brigadier General James E. Mace and Dr. Anne J. Mace, Ed.D. Currently she works with a management consulting firm. Nancy lives with her husband (also a Citadel graduate) in Fort Bennington, Georgia.

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Read an Excerpt

Prologue: Remembrance

The room was small and white, filled with battered tan metal furniture. To my right was a double rack with two thin mattresses and a wool blanket, Citadel blue. The room smelled of shoe polish, mildew, and tobacco spit.

I stood rigidly at attention, chin pressed against my throat, eyes straight ahead, forehead fixed in a frown. My uniform clung stickily to my body, damp in the muggy Charleston air. A few feet away, a muscular young man in a gray uniform was pacing up and down. We were the only two people in the room.

Finally, he stopped in front of me, put his face a few inches from mine, stared intently into my eyes, and began to speak. I could feel his hot breath on my throat.

"Mace, I know why you are here. I know all about your past. I have heard the rumors. I know why you came."

My throat constricted, and the familiar anger welled up inside. "Asshole!" I muttered in my head. "What a jerk!"

Then, leaning even closer, he considered me seriously for another moment and said, "I respect your decision to come here. I know what you're trying to do. I understand."

He started to say something else, thought better of it, and finally dismissed me to return to my quarters. As I saluted him and stepped out into the sultry evening air, I looked up at the white galleries towering above me. Tears of rage stung my eyes. "The hell you know why I'm here," I thought. "The hell you do. Nobody knows. Nobody but me."

Copyright © 2001 Nancy Mace

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Table of Contents

Preface ix
Brief History of the Citadel xii
Prologue: Remembrance xvi
Chapter 1 Battle Cry 1
Chapter 2 1800 Bulldogs and 4 Bitches 15
Chapter 3 Nancy the Knob 29
Chapter 4 The Haze Maze 37
Chapter 5 Hell Night 52
Chapter 6 Survivor 66
Chapter 7 Stormy Weather 73
Chapter 8 Parade Rest 86
Photographs 96
Chapter 9 Going the Distance 110
Chapter 10 Brotherhood 128
Chapter 11 Hair of the Dog 142
Chapter 12 Promises to Keep 149
Chapter 13 Holiday Blues 159
Chapter 14 Star Performer 173
Chapter 15 Recognition Day 183
Epilogue: Wearing the Ring 191
Appendix Personal Memorabilia and Correspondence From the Citadel Years 213
Photo Credits 235
Acknowledgments 236
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First Chapter

Chapter One: Battle Cry

I am a general's daughter. I know a battle when I see one. I never dreamed, however, that the battle to graduate a woman from The Citadel would turn out to be mine.

Looking back on it now, my coming to The Citadel seems like destiny. I grew up in the home of The Citadel's most decorated living graduate, Brigadier General Emory Mace. My father grew up "poor but proud," to use the local phrase. Dad was very young when my grandfather died, so from an early age my father and grandmother struggled to make ends meet in the low country of South Carolina. There were few jobs for women in those days, but my grandmother found work with the county office of children's social services. The pay was low, but she believed strongly in community service and found satisfaction in her work. My father did his part, taking odd jobs to help his mother while he was still a young boy. And like so many low country boys, he became a skilled hunter and fisherman. The woods around South Carolina provided him both with adventure and with fish and game for his mother to cook for dinner. When he was big enough, he also began to catch alligators in the local marshes and sell them for profit. It wasn't strictly legal, but it brought in much-needed money, and the neighbors pretty much looked the other way. If Dad could help his family get by, all the better.

My dad has always said that it was The Citadel that changed his life. Among his other jobs, Dad drove the local school bus during high school to make ends meet. It was through this job that he met a Citadel graduate who took a liking to my father and wanted to help him. Recognizing my father's grit and intelligence, he offered to sponsor Dad for admission to The Citadel. At the time, my father knew almost nothing about the College. He did know, however, that college would give him an education and a chance in life he would otherwise never have. Dad accepted the man's offer gratefully, and arrangements were made for my father to become a cadet. The afternoon that a relative dropped Dad off at Padgett-Thomas Barracks, near the center of campus, my father's life changed forever.

From the time I was a little girl, I heard stories of my father's college days. His scholarship and loans didn't begin to cover all his expenses, so to make up the deficit, my dad would go into the swamps near the Ashley River at night and poach alligators like he had as a boy. It was a dangerous but profitable business that paid his tuition for four years. Dad soon became famous on campus for his backwoods stunts. There is a picture in the 1963 Citadel yearbook that shows him posing with a live alligator. Dad is standing on the second gallery of 2nd Battalion, holding the alligator by the neck. The animal's tail dangles down to my dad's feet, and its jaws are wide open, just inches from my father's face, as it struggles to get loose. Another time Dad sank a metal spike in the grass on Summerall Field and chained a large alligator to it in the dark of night. The next morning he watched through his barracks window and chuckled as frightened senior officers tried to remove the alligator from the field. Everyone knew who had done it, but no one could prove it, and Dad escaped punishment.

Once he became an upperclassman, my father quickly became a legend among the "knobs" (freshmen) assigned to him. Every knob in his company looked at my father with a combination of hatred and awe. When he got a craving for roast duck, Dad would go hunting and make his knobs pluck and clean the birds for him, then take the ducks to the Mess Hall for roasting. A college photo shows a line-up of unhappy freshmen holding a brace of dead ducks ripe for plucking. The most famous knob incident, however, took place during my father's senior year. My dad didn't think one of his knobs was toeing the line, so when Dad returned from a poaching expedition before dawn one morning, he opened his knob's door and threw the angry alligator into the room where the unsuspecting freshman was sleeping. Dad watched just long enough to see the terrified cadet scramble to the top bunk with his roommate, then shut the door and walked away. He eventually went back and retrieved the angry alligator, but he had made his point. Nobody messed with my dad.

My father is the product of another time and place, and many people don't understand him. They see only his toughness, but I have always seen his courage. The walls of our house were lined with medals for bravery in battle, and I knew my dad had risked his life over and over again to save his men in battle. For as long as I can remember, my father has been my hero. I wanted nothing more than to prove that I was my father's daughter, to make him proud of me. I had little hope that would ever happen.

Life had always been a battle for me. I was a skinny, sensitive little girl, prone to sickness and often unhappy. My father was gone much of the time and paid little attention to me when he was home. I sometimes wondered if he even loved me. My mother was my primary source of comfort and strength, in part because we are so much alike. I always knew she loved me; I also knew there were times when she could have killed me. Looking back on my early years, Mom says she didn't always know whether to hug me or strangle me. I wasn't an easy child to raise, and I often taxed her patience to the limit.

School was difficult for me from the beginning. My mother vividly remembers the struggle of sending me off to kindergarten. I was deeply attached to my younger brother, James, fiercely protective, and convinced that it was my job to take care of him. When I first learned that I would not be taking James to school with me, I fell apart. It took all my mother's patient reassurance to convince me that I should leave James in her hands. From my first day of kindergarten, she had trouble getting me to leave the house. Part of the problem was that I worried constantly about getting everything just right. Dressed for school each morning in my little dresses and fold-down socks, I would be fussing with my socks before I even finished breakfast. For reasons my mother could not understand, I was convinced that I couldn't leave the house unless my socks were folded exactly even. Every morning she would have to get out the ruler and measure my socks, carefully adjusting the folds until they were exactly even. When she finally lost patience and tried to make me leave the house without the usual ritual, I burst into tears and cried as if my heart would break. Torn between worry and exasperation, Mom got the ruler out and adjusted my socks until I stopped crying. She tells me that she was never sure whether I was worried that the people at school wouldn't like me if I wasn't perfect, or whether I was simply finding reasons not to leave her. Probably a little of both. Fortunately, my mother is a combination of strength, compassion, and patience, for I required all three.

Fortunately, I did have my father's persistence -- my mother would say stubbornness -- and that persistence eventually paid off. When I was six years old, my mother took me to a swim meet to watch my older sister, Mary, compete. Thrilled at the sight of my sister racing through the water, I announced at dinner that night that I wanted to join the swim team, too. At the time, I was small for my age and could barely flounder the few yards across the shallow end of a pool. My mother diplomatically informed me that summer was over, my swimsuit was already packed in a box at the top of the closet, and it was too late to join my sister's team. Thinking that would be the end of the discussion, she put me to bed and forgot about it.

Hours later, long after she and my father had gone to sleep, she was awakened by a noise in the next room. Tracing the noise to my bedroom, she found me balanced on the top of a chair in the closet, boxes tumbled around my feet. I was triumphantly holding my swimsuit. I announced that I was now "all ready" to join the swim team. It was two o'clock in the morning. Too tired to argue, my mother promised to take me to the pool after school the next day and tucked me back into bed. Mom kept her promise, and the following afternoon she somehow convinced the team coach to take on an undersized girl who could barely swim. At my first meet, I struggled to reach the end of the pool long after the other girls had finished the race and dried off. Any other child would have given up, but not me. Meet after meet, I splashed awkwardly down the length of the pool, and by the end of the season I was keeping up with the slower, older swimmers. The following year I began winning, eventually becoming a champion swimmer. I had learned my first lesson in persistence.

About the same time I first jumped into the deep end of a pool, our family received a visit from an old college friend of my dad's named Jimmy Jones. My father had given me a blue Citadel T-shirt from the College gift shop and taught me how to brace and salute like a cadet. When I heard that the visiting friend was from The Citadel, I insisted on wearing my shirt and greeting him with a salute when he pulled up to the house in his car. An old family photograph shows me standing at attention, my chin tucked in, my face serious with concentration as I salute Mr. Jones. My mother captured the moment on film and tucked the snapshot away in an album for more than a decade. It would be twelve years before any of us thought of that picture again.

Life didn't get any easier for me with the passing of the years. I didn't know it yet, but I was suffering the increasing effects of a learning disability called attention deficit disorder. Academics had always been a source of frustration and shame for me. I had trouble focusing or memorizing, my thought processes were often disrupted, and long periods of forced concentration made me want to crawl out of my skin. The increasing demands of my high school curriculum were rapidly becoming too much for me. It was humiliating. There were days I just wanted to give up.

I didn't seem to fit in socially, either. As an Army brat, I moved constantly with my family, so it was difficult to form lasting friendships. By the time I entered my teens, I was deeply confused about who I was and where I belonged. No matter where I turned, I felt like an outsider. I tried to fit in by partying my freshman year of high school, but it only made things worse. By my sophomore year, I was so miserable that my parents sent me to Florida, to stay with my older sister, Beth Ann, for a while. For several months, I baby-sat my nieces and nephews and worked as a lifeguard at the local beach, entering several lifeguarding competitions as well. When summer ended, I returned to my parents' house and my old high school, hoping that this time things would go better there. Instead, everything just got worse.

Because I had been gone for several months, gossip began to circulate that I'd been pregnant and gone away to have the baby. The rumors grew and grew, and some of the guys at school started treating me like the town slut. I began getting nasty prank calls at home, and when I walked down the hallways at school, some of the football players would purposely bump into me or press me up against the walls and make lewd comments. My mother changed our phone number and bought caller ID, but there was no way to stop people's tongues. Soon other rumors followed: I was a drug addict, I'd had an abortion for a second pregnancy, and on and on. It never seemed to stop. Worst of all, nobody even seemed to care if what they said was true. They liked to gossip too much to let the truth get in the way. The final blow came during junior year, when a good friend of mine was killed by a drunk driver the day after a party I had attended. I was devastated. I sank into a depression so deep that I required antidepressants just to get through the days. I had hit rock bottom. I no longer cared whether I lived or died, and that terrified me. I needed help.

My mother, worried about me, took me out of school and forced me to go through a series of psychological and neurological tests. The tests revealed what my mom already suspected: that I had ADD, a neurological condition that made it difficult for me to learn. At first I resisted the diagnosis, for I didn't like to be labeled "learning disabled." Eventually, though, with my mother's help, I began to accept the reality of my condition. I started on prescription medication for the ADD and worked to acquire coping skills to help me compensate for my disability. The seeds of hope began to grow within me, and with hope came renewed courage. I stopped taking the antidepressants and concentrated on other ways to get well.

Meanwhile, my mother arranged to have me home schooled by a friend of hers, a local teacher. Slowly, with Mom's support, I began to construct a happier life for myself. By the time I turned seventeen, I discovered to my astonishment that my grades had soared. Enrolling the following year in classes at Trident Tech, the local community college, my self-esteem was further boosted, as I found out that even there, I could compete -- and frequently excel. For the first time in my life, I had hope that I might have a future after all. The same perseverance that taken me the length of the pool when I was six was now helping me reach a more important goal -- a happy and productive life.

It was about this same time that I started hearing about The Citadel once more, this time on the evening news. A high school girl named Shannon Faulkner had accidentally been accepted to the all-male college, and all of South Carolina was in an uproar over it. Posters and bumper stickers began popping up all over the county, with SAVE THE MALES and 1800 BULLDOGS AND ONE BITCH pasted on the back of every pickup truck in town. Our old friend Jimmy Jones, now a member of The Citadel Board of Visitors, had a SAVE THE MALES sticker glued to the back of his Mercedes. Like most Southerners of their generation, my parents also opposed admitting a woman to The Citadel, not out of prejudice against women, but because they believed in the benefits of single-gender education. Always the achiever, my sister Mary had graduated from West Point by then, and my parents had supported her decision. Still, they believed that there should be places where a young man or woman could get an education without the distractions of the opposite sex.

I respected my parents' beliefs. It never once crossed my mind during high school to defy the rules and try to get admitted to my dad's college. It would have been disrespectful to my father.

In the early days of 1996, however, everything changed. Since The Citadel, like the Virginia Military Institute, is a state school supported by tax money, it has no choice but to follow the laws governing other public schools. Once the courts ruled that VMI had to admit women, it was clear that The Citadel would soon be forced to do the same. Preferring to take the step voluntarily, the College Board of Visitors voted in late June to admit women to the Corps of Cadets for the fall semester. Our old family friend Jimmy Jones, now head of the Board of Visitors, made the announcement on the evening news.

I guess you could say that was when fate intervened. As I watched the news that night, a thousand things went through my mind. I had put my life together for the first time, but I didn't know what to do next. I didn't want to attend West Point like my sister. What, then? Suddenly, here was my answer. I could follow in my father's steps, become a cadet like he was, stand where he stood. This was my chance to prove to my father, to the kids in high school who had laughed at me -- to myself -- that I had what it took. I could make something of myself. I could earn the respect that had eluded me for so long. After all, if I could survive as a woman at The Citadel, I could survive anything. I lay awake half the night, and by sunup, I knew what I had to do.

The next morning I drove down to the "Castle on the Ashley River," as I had dubbed the College, and filled out the necessary paperwork. I didn't say a word to anyone, not even my parents. On the following Monday the Admissions Department called to tell me to go ahead and get a physical and that so far, my application looked good. A few more days, and they would be able to give me a provisional answer.

Some secrets are just too big to keep, and I couldn't keep this one another minute. Brimming with excitement and anxiety, I was about to give my parents the surprise of their lives.

As with most of my secrets, I told my mother first. To say the least, she was surprised. It had never occurred to her that "her little girl" would be one of the first to apply to the Corps, and her first reaction was worry. She and I had been through a lot together the previous two years. And she still remembered the little girl who cried every day of kindergarten. We had a long talk about my reasons for applying. Finally, satisfied that I had thought my decision through carefully, she told me that if I really wanted to do this, she would be behind me 100 percent. She made only one request: "Tell your father." I promised I would.

Telling Dad was harder, and it took me a few days to work up the courage. But I couldn't put off the conversation forever, so a week after I told my mother, I had a long talk with my dad. I began the conversation by telling him that I respected his viewpoint, and I knew he was against admitting women to his old college. As long as The Citadel opposed the entrance of women, I told him, I would never have applied there. But things had changed, and since the College was going to admit women anyway, I wanted to be one of them. I told him that I meant no disrespect to him. In fact, the main reason I had applied to the Corps of Cadets was because of him. I could think of no greater honor than to wear the uniform he had worn. I would work very hard to make him proud, I told him. Eventually, I ran out of words, and there was nothing to do but wait nervously for his reply.

My father is a master of the poker face, so it took a few moments to gauge his reaction. He sat there quietly, his unlit cigar clenched between his teeth, his jowls unmoving, his eyes noncommittal. At last he asked me the same question my mother had asked me: "Are you sure you know what you're getting into?"

I assured him, "Yes, sir, I think I do."

Unfortunately, he didn't think I had any real idea what I was getting myself into. I had to listen to an endless list of reasons why I shouldn't go to The Citadel. That evening, and for many weeks afterward, my father tried to discourage me from joining the Corps. I'm not sure he thought any woman could survive his old school. After all, most men couldn't. Still, there was a glint in his eye sometimes when he talked to me about his old school that told me he was proud of me for trying.

After all the bad publicity about women at The Citadel, I tried to keep my decision within the family as long as possible. That proved impossible. For starters, my dad "happened to mention" to our old Army friends that I would be entering The Citadel in the fall. Then, before I had even told my own friends, the evening news announced my decision to the whole world.

A New York attorney who was representing another female applicant somehow found out about my application and "accidentally" announced my name and hometown in open court. Within hours my name was on the Associated Press wires, and all hell broke loose.

All the major networks began calling our house. The caller ID on our home phone showed calls from ABC, NBC, CBS, and a host of local stations.

Meanwhile, the phone was also ringing off the hook with calls from relatives and family friends. "Did you know that they mentioned Nancy on the evening news tonight? So is it true? Is she really going to The Citadel?" All of them were astonished by the announcement, but most were supportive. Usually the questions were followed by "Well, good for her. Wish her luck for me, won't you?"

I was surprised and touched by the swell of support I began to receive. My parents and I were flooded with supportive calls, letters, and visits from family friends. Many of them were Army officers or Citadel alums, which felt especially good. I even received congratulations from a local judge, the Honorable Perry Murray. He made a point of seeking me out and saying, "Young lady, I want to shake your hand and congratulate you on your decision." Letters of encouragement began to pour in from all over the country as well, most simply addressed to NANCY MACE, GOOSE CREEK, SOUTH CAROLINA. I was overwhelmed by the kindness of these strangers. After all the years of loneliness, I suddenly found myself surrounded by support. I was determined not to let any of these people down.

Soon articles about me started coming out in the papers, which was really strange. I wasn't used to seeing my name in print, but I kind of liked it. My favorite piece was an interview with General Fields, who was being evaluated for a position at The Citadel. In the course of an interview with a Charleston reporter, the general was asked for his views on women entering the Corps. The reporter mentioned my name as one of the women who would be attending. What the reporter didn't know was that General Fields was an old friend of my family who had lived across the street from us at Fort Richardson, Alaska, when I was growing up. The general told the reporter that he knew me personally, that he'd even been fishing with me and my dad. Then he said, "I wouldn't worry about Nancy. She'll do fine. She's as tough as woodpecker lips!" I thought it was hilarious.

A couple of weeks later, another funny incident happened at work. One afternoon the phone rang, and when I picked up the receiver and said, "This is Nancy Mace. May I help you?", the caller replied in surprise, "Really? The Nancy Mace? The famous one?"

Blushing and laughing, I replied, "I don't know about the famous part, but yes, this is Nancy Mace."

He laughed, too, and said, "Well, congratulations. And good luck!" I thought to myself as I transferred his call, "It's kind of cool being famous!" In the past, most of the attention I'd attracted was negative. For the first time, people were saying nice things about me.

Being famous wasn't always "cool," though, either for me or for my family. A few days later, my mother received her first piece of hate mail. The letter was handwritten and unsigned. The wording and tone were vicious and vaguely threatening, and I was hurt and angry. How dare this woman attack my mother that way? What kind of person had nothing better to do than write horrible letters to strangers? And what kind of coward sent a letter like that without signing her name? Unfortunately, that letter was only the first of many. The same woman wrote to my mother for nearly three years, all in the same threatening tone. My mother didn't tell me until much later, but there were times she feared for my safety.

Hate mail was the least of my worries at the moment, though. There was too much to do. With my entrance interviews out of the way and the results of my physical exam finally in, my acceptance to The Citadel was now official. I had less than two months to get ready for the greatest battle I had yet faced. I could not afford to fail. It might be my only chance.

Copyright © 2001 Nancy Mace

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 18 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2004

    Stacy M, Charleston, SC

    I loved this book. It just makes you want to strive more and more for something. I now look at things alot differently and don't give up on things so easily. In fact.. I auctually thank her because I have seen an imporovment in my grades :)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2003

    In the Company of Men

    I think the book was okay. It was some what interesting. Most of the time during the story, I got bored with it. Sometimes, I was interested. I didn't feel that the book told about her whole time at the Citidel. It mainly told about her Knob year. I would have liked to have learned more about when she was an upperclassman. I wanted to know how she racked the new knobs. Near the end of the story I started to loose interest and wanted it to be over. The end dissappointed me and That is why I only gave it 2 stars.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2003

    I enjoyed the book!

    I enjoyed the book very muchseeing as i want to go to the citadel. I like how Nancy put in every little detail. I enjoyed learning how hard knob year is and how a typical knobs day is. I would recommend this book only if you are interested in going to a military college. I think that people interested in the citdel and alumuis would really enjoy this. I think this book teaches you noot to let other bring you down and try to end your dream. I see Nancy as some one that is strong, confedent, and willing to do what it takes to succed in life. I enjoyed learning about the citadel and am looking forward to going there when I go to college.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2003

    In the Company of Men

    I liked the principle of the it and the setting of the book because I want to The Citadel then to the millitary. I learned that all the racking of the Citadel will cause you to be emotionaly croke. I would recommend this book to all ages because of a goil in life to do but the only reason I would not is all the cursing in it. I think more of the high schools would enjoy it. The lessons that I think is respect your elders and listen. I feel great about Nancy Mace because of the harrasment that she went though. I feel good about the Citadel because it teaches you respect and discipline because that is what must people need to learn.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2003

    In the Company of Men

    I dont think they should of picked on her cuz she was a girl.I would recommend the book cuz it is a good book.I learned that even when you are having a hard time with something never give up.I think Nancy is a good writter.However I think it is wrong how they criticized her.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2003

    This is a powerful book about how to surive diversity.

    Although I am not a Citadel grad, I know alot about the Citadel thanks to this book. If anyone, male or female, is thinking about attending the Citadel they should defiuitely read this book. I loved her acount on how she got through a difficult situation despite her diversity. We all have something to learn from Nancy. we should also respect her point of view, even if we dont agree with her opinion.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2003

    I liked this book

    I really liked this book,all except for the bad language. I understand that we all hear those words every day, but we shoudn'thave to in a book targeted toward teenagers. I learned from this book that you can do whatever you want to do and be whatever you want to be as long as you try and believe in yourself. I think people that don't think they can do something just because someone else thinks they can't should read this book. I think Nancy Mace was very brave for going to the citadel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2003

    In the Company of Men

    This was a good book. I think Nancy became a better person after she attended the citadel. She did a good job at explaining the hardships of cadet life. I think she was very truthful at telling how her life was, as being the first female citadel graduate. I would rate this book a 3 or 4 because it was an interesting and good book, but i did get bored a couple of times. I would recommend this book to others.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2003

    In the Company of Men

    I like the book because she explained everything that she talked about in the book very closely in detail. Why i didn't like it though was because she didn't tell us about her sophmore through senior year. I learned many things about the Citadel such as the rules of the Guidon and what the knobs have to go through to pass their freshman year. I liked the book because overall it is a very good entertaining book to read. Many people would like this book especially Citadel graduates and people interested in this kind of material. It taught many values such as patience and humility etc. I feel she is a good person with good virtues and values. I feel is was a really good book with great vitures and it teaches great values.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2003

    the first women at the citadel

    my review is about the book a women at the citadel and I liked it alot but the reason I voted 4 stars is all the cussing and all the abuse they seemed to get but overall it was good.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2003

    In the Company of Men

    I liked that she was the first woman to graduate from the Citadel. THat proves that women can do anything men can. I dislike that the guys treated her differently because she was a woman. I learned to not let anyone get in teh way of your dreams. Yes, if you would like to become a part of the Citadel then I suggest you read this book. Women that want to become a cadet in general. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Nancy Mace is brave enough to go to the Citadel and graduate. I dislik it and I know I would never go tehre but if you want to be disciplined, go there.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2003

    A Good Book

    I will recommend this book to other people. This book gives a true account of life at the Citadel. Nancy Mace is a very strong, talented woman. I admire her for what she accomplished. The book taught me that you can do anything you set your mind to. The Citadel is a wonderful school and it is a wonderful thing to be a graduate from that school. I loved this book because it was a true story of a girl's experience at the Citadel and the struggles and triumphs of going there. I would give this book 4 stars.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2003

    Outrageous Exaggerations

    I thought the book was good but on the other hand it was awful. She accomplished her dream of becoming the first woman to graduate from the Citidel and that is great and all but she complained way too much. I don't know why she had to make all the outrageous exaggerations about the racking and harrassment because she knew what to expect when she came to the Citidel and if she couldn't handle it then she shouldn't of gone there. In my opinion, the only reason Nancy Mace entered the Citidel was for attention. She knew she would get attention by applying for the Citidel and she was loving every minute of it. I would never recommend her book to anybody and due to her selfishiness she probably discouraged a lot of women to join the Citidel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2003

    In the Company of Men

    I think 'In the Company of Men' is a good book. It educates and tells people about the Citadel. What I didn't like is that it talks all about herself. From what I know she exaggerates some stuff. I learned that The Citadel can educate you and discipline you like in the military. I would recommend this book to people who want to know more about The Citadel. This book teaches you to value your friends and family. I think Nancy Mace is brave for trying something new whick she knwe would be a very difficult task. In my opinion people should have made a Citadel for women so there would hve been no pfroblems. The Citadel is a great place for education and discipline. If you are willing to wrok hard, you should go there.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2003

    In the Company of Men

    I thought the book was good. It shows that women are strong too. I met Nancy and she is a real nice women. I recommend this book to all it shows what its like there and what taditions they have. she tells what it takes to graduate from the Corps at the Citadel. It explains the requirments you need to survive the cadre. she tells about all the herassment she went through as a women at the citadel and what she did to get respect.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2003

    In the Company of Men

    I enjoyed this book about Nancy Mace.On some parts I got really interested in it some parts I did not.She is a role model for me because I might want to join the Citadel when I get older.I think that is good that she was one of the first women to join the Citadel.I think it was really hard to deal with all that racking.I think she is a really good person.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2002

    This book, is not the real deal.

    Hi folks, If you truly want to know about the Citadel and what goes on there, first you need to talk to a grad, then visit the campus. Nancy Mace, to all them men that graduated there is a disgrace, she got it easy. Now if you truly want to know how a women can hack it at the citadel, talk to Petra L, She is currently in the Marine Corps. she is a credit to the Citadel, unlike Mace who is a joke. I should know I am a Citadel Grad.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2002

    Excellent Account from her point of view

    I also am a Citadel grad, and I am truly glad for Nancy's account she has given us here. The Citadel experience is a very personal one for everyone that attends the school. There are very few accounts that graduates usually relate, especially in forms available to the general public. One should not view Nancy's book as a timeless classic written by a great author (and criticize it so), but instead as an insight into her thoughts and experiences of not only her time at the Citadel, but through her life as well. In this light, if you are interested in the Citadel it is a great story- where not very many exist. Any person who writes about the Citadel receives a lot of criticism from the Citadel community (Possibly no one more so than Pat Conroy himself). It's great to have her story documented, especially since Nancy was such a key figure in the Citadel's history. I graduated when the school was all male, and was opposed to the co-ed decision feeling it took away a lot of the schools uniqueness. I am glad that the school still brings in high quality people such as Nancy Mace. It was commonly believed at the time that the first women (especially the very first girl) who attended the citadel only did so for publicity reasons- Nancy's story made me feel as if she attended the school for the right reasons, and this is why she did very well at The Citadel and afterwards.

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