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Witnesses to war: The war stories of women Vietnam veterans

Margaret Ellen Perri, University of Massachusetts Amherst


From 1962 to 1973 approximately 11,000 military women and an unknown number of civilian American women served in Vietnam during the war. Despite an ongoing fascination with the war, there has been little interest in the war stories of women veterans. Academic research in this area is shamefully lacking. This study was designed to focus attention on the war stories of women Vietnam veterans. It is motivated by the striking lack of resources or attention paid to the development of treatment models which can be helpful to women veterans who suffer with posttraumatic stress disorder as a result of their involvement in the war. This study was designed to explore the potential of storytelling as a way to help women who were in Vietnam heal from trauma. A narrative research methodology was used to record the war stories of five women Vietnam veterans. The stories which are included in this dissertation are those of three military nurses, one Red Cross worker, and one other civilian woman who worked in an "in country" refugee camp. The stories, including the author's own, are told in each woman veteran's authentic voice. The women veterans' war stories serve as the centerpiece of this dissertation. Of equal interest to the researcher was the interactive process of story making and the relationship between the storyteller and the witness which resulted in a resonating gestalt. Storytelling is healing when told in an empathic environment. Healing is relational. Narrative research methodology is mutually empowering for both the researcher and subject. Each of the women spoke of her repeated attempts to tell her story which went unheard, ignored or distorted. The principle factor which contributes to the efficacy of the model explored in this research is the quality of the witnessing.

Subject Area

Academic guidance counseling|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Perri, Margaret Ellen, "Witnesses to war: The war stories of women Vietnam veterans" (1998). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9823764.