Book Review: Mobilizing Minerva: American Women in the First World War


by Kimberley Jensen

Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008. Pp. xvii, 244. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $65 . ISBN:0252074963

Mobilizing Minerva deals with the role of American women in the war effort during the Great War.  The book is, however, neither military history nor a war and society treatment, but rather a "gender studies" account. 

With the preface and conclusions, there are ten essays in the book.  A number are quite good, such as the organization of women's volunteer militia units, the effort of women medical personnel to secure professional status in the armed forces, and the role of women in pressing for and providing medical assistance to women and children in the war zone. An essay on the tribulations of women working in military hospitals is good, but illustrates some of the limitations of the work, failing, for example, to ask if hostile conditions (e.g., sexual harassment) differed from the experience in civilian hospitals, from which the Army's medical personnel were recruited. 

Jensen often betrays a lack of familiarity with military terminology and history, even using "soldier" when "sailor" is meant.  The author also seems unaware that in major wars military personnel are mostly civilians wearing uniforms rather than military professionals, and thus that their behavior may not reflect "military culture" at all. 

 There is some excellent material in Mobilizing Minerva, but much of it is buried. 
Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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