Sullivan, Jill M.: Bands of Sisters: U.S. Women's Military Bands during World War II

By Jones, Patrick M. | Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, October 2013 | Go to article overview

Sullivan, Jill M.: Bands of Sisters: U.S. Women's Military Bands during World War II


Jones, Patrick M., Journal of Historical Research in Music Education


Sullivan, Jill M. Bands of Sisters: U.S. Women's Military Bands during World War II. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2011. 182 pp. Hardcover, index. ISBN 978-0-8108-8162-4, $65.00.

Jill Sullivan's Bands of Sisters: U.S. Women's Military Bands during World War II is a must-read for every music educator. This chronicle of an important piece of American history is not only informative but at times personal, emotional, and revelatory. I cheered, I chuckled, and I cried as I read it. The passion, excitement, and pain of the women in these bands touched both my head and my heart. Clearly, this is a powerful story and Sullivan has told it masterfully. Her work is rigorous and honest. It is based on solid research that includes primary and secondary sources and first-person interviews with seventy-nine women who served in these bands.

The book is a compact 149 pages divided into seven chapters, an appendix listing all women interviewed, the bands in which they served, and the instruments they played, and thirty-two photographs that show each of the bands. In an introductory chapter Sullivan gives an overview of the legislation leading to the establishment of women's military units and women's bands, as well as women's bands prior to World War II. Each successive chapter is devoted to a branch of the military and their women's bands starting with the Women's Army Corps with its five women's bands, the Navy's WAVES with a variety of ensembles, the Coast Guard women's SPAR band, and the Marine Corps Women's Reserve Band. Chapter 6 is devoted to the work some of these bands did with injured service men and their recovery, which helped to establish modern music therapy. Sullivan draws conclusions and articulates the contributions these bands made to the war effort, the nation, and women's rights.

It was a delight to read such archival research in an era where many historians are producing work based on a priori theoretical frameworks that can lead to "proving" forgone conclusions instead of allowing the archival work to reveal stories and patterns organically. …

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