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Women Warriors: A History (The Warriors) Hardcover – April 1, 1997
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Never mind the accomplishments of American women in the Gulf War, of Nicaraguan women in the Sandinista revolt, of Vietnamese women in countless wars: fighting, many continue to believe, is the province of men. Setting aside the question of whether war is desirable no matter who fights it, anthropologist David Jones takes a look at women warriors throughout world history. He turns up well-known examples like Joan of Arc and Molly Pitcher; better, he looks at the contributions of lesser- known fighters from ancient Scandinavia and Africa on down to the present. Throughout Jones has a keen eye for (sometimes gruesome) detail, and he leaves you feeling glad you don't have to scrap with any of his many fearsome heroines.
From Publishers Weekly
Openly dismissive of traditional Western arguments that women are ill-suited for combat, Jones, a cultural anthropologist, sets out to show that women "own" war and its glories just as much as men do. Reaching back to ancient times and continuing through to the Gulf War, Jones divides his work into geographically themed chapters. In them, he presents instance after instance of females who "have taken the field and have wielded the weapons of their day." While Jones offers the caveat that "no sane person would wish involvement in war on anyone-male or female," he presents his women warriors in heroic terms. Among the many she-warriors who make appearances are the medieval Japanese Lady Yatsushior, who charged into battle while pregnant, and the 19th-century Frenchwoman Jeanette Colin, who disguised herself as a man and fought against the British at the Battle of Trafalgar. Many of Jones's tales are fascinating, but the scope of this survey is so broad that he hits only the highlights of each story before moving on to the next. Readers are left hankering for more of such viragoes as the Irish pirate queen Grace O'Malley, who reportedly terrorized even the powerful British Queen Elizabeth I. Serious students of military history may fault Jones for his heavy reliance on anecdotal material, and for his one-sided presentation of his subject, particularly regarding the role of women in modern American conflicts. Others will lose patience with his heavy-handed presentation of theme: "Men and women will never reach a common consciousness of their equality as humans until both accept that women have a claim on the title 'Warrior.'" Still, this is an entertaining introduction to an intriguing and largely neglected subject. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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If one is going to write a history, one cannot get obvious details flat wrong. Jones has the Roman Emperor Claudius bossing 'General' Julius Caesar--in a year in which Claudius was not yet born, no Emperor existed, and the rank of 'General' did not exist in the Roman Republic. He has the Spartans at war with a city called 'Argive.' This would be like them attacking a city called 'Athenian' or 'Theban.' 'Argive' is the demonym for the city of Argos, in the Peloponnese. And these are only the fundamental historical cluelessnesses that jumped out at me, making me wonder how many did not but are still incorrect.
If one is going to write about the military art, one has to grasp the basics of military science. Hussars are light cavalry. Saying that someone served in the infantry in a unit of hussars, in the age of equestrian warfare, shows a basic absence of military understanding. It's the little things: calling the renamed 587th Bomber Aviation Regiment the '125th Raskova Guardians' could only be done by someone who knows nothing about the way the Soviet Union named Guards units.
The book gets two stars because of the large volume of subject matter, most of which might be true, and which supplies a number of probably credible stories about women in leadership and war. And that's all it gets, because for a professor at a university to butcher history this way is inexcusable. Jones had access to people who knew better, and evidently they were not consulted. What could have been a great book about women's history is malformed because a cultural anthropologist didn't know much about military history and didn't incorporate input from anyone who did. What a shame, because a lot of readers aren't historians and will just absorb erroneous information (after all, he's a college professor!). We needed much better, especially in an era in which American women warriors are breaking silences over the endemic and reprehensible prevalence of military sexual assault.
Title it _Women Warriors: A Collection of Stories by Someone Unconversant with Actual History, Most of Which Might be Mostly True_ and it gets five stars.