Pallas Athena, the beautiful Greek goddess of war and wisdom, combines the martial and the feminine. A provocative mating of seemingly opposite yet related attributes highlights the power and grace explored in the myths of Athena. This juxtaposition of strength and femininity makes Athena the choice for the cover of Porcelain on Steel.
Athena’s physical beauty mirrored the inner. Her helmet, signifying wisdom and learning, reveals the lines of an elegant yet determined face when pushed back from her brow. Known more for her role as judge, diplomat, and mediator than for actually fighting in battle her decisions were renowned for their fairness and compassion. As a war goddess, her presence on the battlefield meant the contest would be decided by sound strategy, cool courage, and military competence rather than by brute force and unrestrained carnage. She fought with integrity, purpose and justice.
Athena also plays a prominent role at West Point.
The distinctive unit crest of West Point consists of her helmet and sword. All military faculty and cadets wear a subdued modest Velcro patch on their left shoulder with the Army Combat Uniform. Cadets wear the crest on their class uniforms with varied colored insignia depending on class year. This pose of Athena is derived from a bas-relief statue, standing 18-feet tall, on the old library of West Point. Sculpted by Lee Lawrie, (perhaps the 20th century’s most famous architectural sculptor)–Athena was his last commission; he died shortly after its completion in 1963.
West Point women embody the traits and qualities Pallas Athena represents.
In their own right, leaders who beget leaders belong to the fold of “the bright-eyed”, goddess of wisdom, warfare and martial craft. The trajectories of West Point Women graduates began with strong, insightful and inspiring contributions and coaching in their aim to ensure the successful integration of women…and the integration of successful women. They are the bright-eyed Athena’s of today, in this mortal world and of the generations to come.
In December 1975, a team of West Point researchers initiated “Project Athena” to compile an institutional history and database of the admission of women. The longitudinal study became a four-volume source for scholars studying gender integration.
A special thank you to graphic designer, Whitney Brazell. She possesses a unique sense for creating a nuanced visual metaphor based on what Donna McAleer writes. This is a rare talent. The cover works—she nailed it.