Chapter 28: Abstract

Post-1945 Western Militaries, Female Soldiers, and Gay and Lesbian Rights

Karen Hagemann (UNC–Chapel Hill, Department of History) and D’Ann Campbell (Culver-Stockton College)

In Oxford Handbook of Gender, War, and the Western World since 1600, ed. by Karen Hagemann et al. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 698-726.


This chapter analyzes the changing policies of the professionalizing Western militaries in the post-1945 era towards female, gay, and lesbian soldiers and the challenges they posed to dominant ideas of military masculinity. It discusses the interrelated importance of both gender and sexuality for the determination of the “right to kill and die” for a country. The focus will be on the NATO states Britain, Canada, and the United States. The chapter tries to identify the main enabling and driving factors for policies of integrating women in these three countries, which started in the 1970s, as well as gay and lesbian people that began in the 1990s. It argues that the increasing integration of female, gay, and lesbian soldiers was fostered, first, by the move to professional armies based on volunteers which lead to growing military manpower needs; second, the expanding centrality of de-gendered technological sophistication which allowed the integration of more and more women, because it required skills and knowledge and not mainly strength; third, social movements that pushed for equal rights of women and queer people; and fourth, as a result a change in public opinion.


Post-1945; Cold War; NATO; Britain, Canada; United States;  professionalization of armies; female soldiers; LGBT soldiers; gender.

Part IV: "From the Global Cold War to the Conflicts of the Post-Cold War Era" of the Oxford Handbook of Gender, War and the Western World since 1600.

To buy an electronic version of this Oxford Handbook chapter click here.

Bibliographic lists: Select Bibliography | Full List

Abstracts: Previous Abstract | Table of Contents | Next Abstract