Stronger than Custom

West Point and the Admission of Women

by Lance Janda


Examines the admission of women to the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1976.

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October 2001


Pages 272
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Women's Studies/General

The gender barrier that stood for nearly two centuries at the United States Military Academy was toppled in 1976. Based on more than one hundred interviews, thousands of pages of Academy documents, and a wide array of secondary sources, this is the first comprehensive history of what the admission of women at West Point meant for the Academy, for the Army, and for the United States. The story of how West Point prepared for the precedent-setting arrival of women has never before been thoroughly told. Given the current interest in the role of women in the armed forces, and the attention focused on The Citadel and VMI when they admitted women, this is a topical story that will appeal to a general audience.

Janda explains how and why female cadets were admitted to West Point and how they responded to the challenge of confronting 175 years of all-male Academy tradition. He argues that neither feminists nor Congress forced the Academy to change standards for women, and that Academy leaders were pioneers in exploring the implications of bringing women into formerly all-male military academies. Stronger than Custom also examines the sacrifices made by the first women cadets at the Academy, each of whom confronted an array of personal and professional hurdles on the road to graduation. When 62 of the original 119 women who entered the Academy in 1976 graduated four years later, they did so in triumph.

Table of Contents

ForewordPrefaceIntroductionPrologue"The Corps Has""A Measure of Our Maturity""A Higher Calling""The Little Things""They Saw Through Us""The Invisible Middle""All of Our Children"EpilogueAppendixBibliographyIndex



This excellent book tells the story of the 119 women who were the first female cadets at West Point. The author masterfully analyzes pro and con arguments in the debate over women's place and examines policy decisions, but his most impressive contribution is about the cadets themselves. Men faced obstacles to accepting the women, including Academy actions and their own prejudices. As a small minority the women faced and overcame these obstacles. Their talent and courage showed that they indeed have been heroes. All levels/collections.—Choice

[a] valuable contribution to the growing body of scholarship on military gender integration and required reading for anyone interested in this topic.—H-Net Reviews

^IStonger than Custom^R is an intelligent and highly readable study of the admission of women to the United States Military Academy at West Point and of the experiences of the women of the Class of 1980...^IStronger Than Custom^R is the demonstration that a historian's personal engagement with the subject can draw the reader into the story and into the controversies that arise from it in an intellectually satisfying way. This is an admirable book and valuable reading for anyone seeking a clearer understanding either of the overall process of gender integration of the armed forces or of one of the most important, and ultimately successful, episodes in the story.—Army History

This excellent history of the integration of women at West Point represents an important and welcome addition to the literature on women in the military. Not the least of the book's virtues is the absence of any discernible idealogical agenda, which makes this particular study of military women a rare gem indeed.—The Journal of Military History


Lance Janda has written a landmark book about the U.S. Military Academy's most momentous challenge. Combining intelligence and candor, ^IStronger than Custom^R is more than worthy of its complex subject.—Thomas Fleming^Lauthor of ^IWest Point: The Men and Times of the United States Military Academy

Lance Janda has captured and why what happened to us happened those first four years for women at West Point. His thorough research and clear prose make this work a must addition to all libraries! West Point is truly an enduring institution; tradition starts everyday and Lance shows us how the tradition of women at West Point may have changed its face, but has left untouched the duty, honor, country.—Carol Barkalow^Lauthor of ^IIn the Men's House: An Inside Account of Life in the Army by One of West Point's First Female Graduates^R

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