Military Wives

Military wives are wives of men in the armed services. All major wars throughout history have subjected the wives of soldiers to a harsh existence. These women must endure waiting at home for their husbands, hoping they will return safely. Depending on their financial situation, these women become the providers and protectors of their families.

Following the Vietnam War, a group of military wives and widows in the United States created the National Military Family Association. The organization provides financial security and an overall improvement in quality of life for military families. The association works to inform members of Congress and the public about the benefits and rights due to military families. Satisfaction with benefits for military families affects military recruitment and the retention of soldiers within the army.

The military lifestyle of constantly moving prevents many military wives from obtaining sufficient job experience and education. Some employers may not want to hire military wives because of their moving patterns and inability to commit to a long-term job. Military wives are tied to husbands who must move from base to base; the wife's employment opportunities do not influence the moves. Moreover, military bases may be located in areas that offer low wages and limited employment opportunities. If housing is subsidized, military wives may not feel a need to work. Military treatment facilities make having children more affordable as does child care provided on the base. All these factors contribute to a situation where military wives generally earn less than civilian wives.

During the American Revolution, wives and families of soldiers became camp followers. They followed their husbands to Valley Forge in 1777, served as nurses, mended clothing, carried water and ammunition and cooked for the men. Many of these women followed their husbands because the battlefields were close to home and, otherwise, they were left with no protection. Wives who stayed at home suffered from loneliness and anxiety. Those that followed endured the deprivations of camp life. Due to the ever-increasing amount of women and children living in the military camps, Gen. Washington issued orders such as: "The women who have children and all those unable to march on foot must also be sent off, as none will be permitted to ride on wagons or horses, on any pretext whatever." Most of the women ignored these orders and stayed with their husbands.

Women faced similar conditions during the Civil War. The army did not provide for the women and took no responsibility for them. Some women stayed at home to tend to plantations and farms, living in fear of looters. Others followed their husbands for lack of a better alternative or because of the devotion they felt for their husbands. Some women even participated in the battles. Kady Brownell, wife of Union Sgt. Brownell, held the company standard to guide soldiers into battle. Some wives of Confederate soldiers even ventured into the fray, fighting alongside the men. However, wives of officers had a very different experience from the wives of regular infantry; they enjoyed balls, galas and lush accommodations.

World War I was the first of four major wars fought by Americans where the fighting occurred overseas, forcing women to remain at home and become "waiting wives." At home, they worked in munitions factories and procured employment in order to provide for their families. The wife could no longer provide care for her husband on the battlefield. Almost 5 million married men registered for the army during World War I, and almost 75 percent were deferred. Married men could avoid active duty to an unprecedented extent.

During World War II, women took on a more active role on the home front. They worked in factories, offices, agriculture and transportation. Almost 1 million women took jobs in the federal government. After taking over for the men, many wives felt dissatisfied going back to their role as housewife, thereafter changing the role of women in the working world. The government recognized the needs of families of servicemen and passed the Servicemen's Dependents Allowance Act, which provided monthly allowances of $28 for a wife, $40 for a wife and child and $10 for each additional child. Wives still followed their husbands from camp to camp in America. Some of these women worked testing guns and military equipment, earning up to $30 a month. Once the war was over, wives joined their husbands in occupied territory in Europe. A War Department ruling said, "No man having a wife or child shall be enlisted in time of peace without special authority from the General Headquarters."

Military Wives: Selected full-text books and articles

The Unsilencing of Military Wives: Wartime Deployment Experiences and Citizen Responsibility By Davis, Jennifer; Ward, David B.; Storm, Cheryl Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, Vol. 37, No. 1, January 2011
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Being a Wife of a Veteran with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder* By Dekel, Rachel; Goldblatt, Hadass; Keidar, Michal; Solomon, Zahava; Polliack, Michael Family Relations, Vol. 54, No. 1, January 2005
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Forgotten Women? Did Americans Care about Wives of American Servicemen in Vietnam By Brown, Elizabeth Minerva: Quarterly Report on Women and the Military, Vol. 18, No. 1, Spring 2000
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Married to the Military: The Employment and Earnings of Military Wives Compared with Those of Civilian Wives By James Hosek; Beth Asch; C. Christine Fair; Craig Martin; Michael Mattock Rand, 2002
Intimate Strategies of the Civil War: Military Commanders and Their Wives By Carol K. Bleser; Lesley J. Gordon Oxford University Press, 2001
Army Letters from an Officer's Wife, 1871-1888 By Frances M. A. Roe; I. W. Taber University of Nebraska Press, 1981
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