Army leadership may have been closed-minded about it, but women were not. Like Susan B. Anthony, Martha Gellhorn, and Rosie the Riveter, the women of the second half of the twentieth century knew they could do anything a man could do — unless forbidden. Their opportunity came three short years after universal military service — for men — ended, when President Ford signed an order to admit women to the service academies. The class of contained the first women admitted to West Point in The bigotry only intensified.
The first women were treated to the silence that the first black cadets had endured a century before, upperclassmen refusing to speak with them except on official business, while speaking at them to call them bitches and whores and desecrating their clothes and uniforms. Harassed, pushed physically beyond their fitness and emotionally beyond anything they could have expected, the women of that first graduating class, then the next, and the one after that, not only succeeded, but excelled.
Their individual stories bear the telling.
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The swimmer faced up to her attitude and moved on, graduating in the second class, then rising to become an air defense artillery commander in Iraq. She was promoted to general grade officer in and is nominated for her second star as I write. Another commanded the largest logistics and suppor command in Iraq — with an all-female corps support command. A third became the world record holder in the Velodrome and Masters Cycling Championship — while on chemotherapy.
And there is a special place for Cynthia Lindenmeyer. Overcoming family divorce, drugs, and poor grades and getting into West Point by the hardest turn-around imaginable, she was commissioned into the Signal Corps, where few men liked having a woman in charge of tactical communications. She eventually transferred branches to attend chaplain officers training.
Again, like she had been as a new woman cadet at West Point, she was marginalized, harassed, and treated harshly by male students who believed men had a unique role in military divinity, yet she became the Distinguished Honor Graduate.
Porcelain on Steel: Women of West Point's Long Gray Line - Donna M. McAleer - Google Books
Eventually, the Army returned her to West Point where, on August 25, , she presided over the funeral service of Command Sergeant Major Mary Sutherland, the longest-serving woman in the history of the Army. And, on that same day, she served at the eulogy for First Lieutenant Laura Walker, Class of , the first woman graduate of West Point to die in war. Reading Porcelain on Steel is in many ways like studying a foreign language and, in the process, improving your English. What we have taken for granted is improved because of this book about women who have overcome the ultimate obstacle and, in some cases at the ultimate cost, having gone about their lives in a male world, and succeeded in ways that honor them and improve us.
And, like pointillism, each individual point is rewarding to study, yet viewed as a whole is transformative. Comments and opinions expressed in Jack London Reviews do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the author or publisher of any work reviewed. Jack Woodville London may be contacted at jack jackwlondon. Lo, France. Whatever went outside wound up in porcelain.
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Bruner: The list is endless. The hobby of porcelain enamel advertising collecting is pretty much divided into two categories as far as interest goes: the automobile which includes the petrol collectors and all that and the country store collectors. My favorite is the country store stuff. Your telephone sign is a country store sign, and things that had to do with tobacco , which was hugely popular. Paints and varnishes, anything to do with the food industry, those all go under the country store category. The other one is the petrol, which has to do with automobiles , gasoline and oil.
I would guess that the petrol sign collectors outnumber country store collectors two to one. If I had to do this all over again, I might even just collect petrol stuff as far as investment value goes, because those guys are big spenders. As opposed to the country store collectors, who are not quite as competitive. The stove companies were huge users of porcelain enamel advertising. That was a big part of the American advertising scene. Peninsular was a big one.
We have one right here in Michigan called Round Oak, which used an imaginary Indian chief named Doe-Wah-Jack, and that was a huge business. They did a gigantic amount of advertising and their stuff is just super collectible today because of that Indian chief.
Porcelain On Steel Women of West Point's Long Gray Line
His picture is on everything. Tennessee Enamel in Nashville made a lot of porcelain signs, but their biggest account holder was Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola was probably the most prolific producer of country store advertising. Those kinds of stories are getting real few and far between today. Bruner : Thousands. But you also have to ask how many copies of a particular sign were made. The Internet has given people a more realistic way of judging the scarcity of items.
Because of the huge scrap drives, especially World War II scrap drives, most of the signs that were lying around were destroyed. The signs came down, and they would just sit in places. The scrap drive of World War II really took a lot of our heritage away. But, hey, what are you going to do?
We won the war. Bruner : Once in a while, yes. In my book that just came out, I took a picture of an old Pontiac sign and an old Buick sign at a dealership. Much to my surprise, these two porcelain neon advertisements were still giving service on a dealership downtown. We had all better enjoy these few remaining artifacts while we can, as this type of thing is almost extinct. I went through Woodland, California four days ago and the signs were gone.
Bruner : I do, probably about porcelain signs.
I have pretty much always favored graphics. That sign to me is just killer because of the graphics. Graphics are paramount to me, which is why I got out of the telephone signs. They started to all look the same: same message, same color, same bell. But collecting those telephone signs all those years gave me the tools that I needed to collect the stuff, and they sparked my interest enough to keep going. Porcelain railroad signs are not easy to come by. I have a couple. I have a Union Pacific Railroad shield. I have a Western Pacific Railroad sign, which is a black and gray and with a big red feather, with Feather River Route on it.
Railroads, for some reason or another, were not prolific users of porcelain advertising. Those guys just went on and on. I have very few highway signs because the only ones I would want are fairly graphic. But highway signs have become very popular. In the s , the California Auto Club made directional signs that were diamond shaped, and those things are going insane right now.
It has a mountain scene on it. Farm signs are mostly feeds and that kind of stuff.
I have a couple of those. I have a few door pushes and pulls. I never made it a specialty of mine, but I know some guys that do have them as specialties. I own one or two newspaper signs, including one from the Detroit Free Press. The Toronto Star had a lot of signs made for them.
In our area here, we have the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, and they both made porcelain signs. There are a bunch of companies that specialized in the West.
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Those guys out West just love that stuff. I was in an antiquing area called Snohomish, Washington about a month ago, and I got a little flanged porcelain sign. Insurance company signs are another area. That was done with a decal process that was fired on, and those kind of images are very desirable. Anytime you have that sign, you have a string of collectors who want it and a lot of dollars that are waiting to buy it.
The graphics that are done with the decal process are the most sought-after. Tobacco and cigar signs are very popular too. I just had to have it, so I traded mine. You better have a really good product in order to sell it for a dime. The best at any price. Bruner: There are two-sided flat, one-sided flat, and flanged signs. Condition is always nice.
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