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VALLEY NEWSWATCH / A SPECIAL REPORT: WOMEN VETERANS

November 11, 1996|Robin Rauzi

Growing Ranks: "Women are the invisible veterans," says Callie Wight, the women veterans coordinator at the Sepulveda VA Medical Center, but their numbers are increasing. Women make up 4.4% of the veteran population, but 11.7% of vets under age 35.

Long History: Some women disguised themselves as men to fight as far back as the Civil War, while others worked as spies. "Women have been involved in war all along," said Virginia Elwood, CSUN's women's studies librarian. "They didn't necessarily want to be there--but they were."

A Good WAVE: Freade Wood, above, was a WAVE in World War II, working in payroll and supply. "I'd rather have taken work with a screwdriver than have to sit behind a desk," said Wood, 79. She's a little envious of women in the Navy today, who serve on ships and in submarines and travel the world.

Belated Benefits: In 1992, after the Persian Gulf War, a federal law required the VA to improve services for women. Carol A. Docan, a professor of business law at CSUN, said women got short shrift in the past. A group of WASPs--Women's Airforce Service Pilots--who helped train soldiers and transport aircraft during World War II, were denied veteran status until 1979.

Equality: But World War II also marked the first time women got equal pay for doing the same work as men, said Doris Vick, 73, president of the San Fernando Valley WAVEs. Scandals like Tailhook, where female naval pilots were assaulted by their male counterparts, baffle Vick. "I felt that we were well regarded and well taken care of. This harassment stuff I can't understand."

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