Porcelain on Steel: Women of West Point’s Long Gray Line was borne out of my experience as a high school volleyball coach in 2004. Concerned with many of the role models my young athletes admired, I remembered with pride many of the women with whom I had served at West Point and in the Army. These women had exhibited courage, strength and character under many stressful and challenging situations and could serve as sterling role models. I felt that if my team could learn about some of these women, perhaps they would consider pursuing comparable paths of excellence.
This collection of contemporary biographies introduces a group of role models who are ordinary women, not celebrities, but have extraordinary stories of their journeys of perseverance and integrity. While the women portrayed in this book share a common education and developmental experience at West Point and as Army officers, they have chosen varied paths in and out of the Army.
Several academic socio-psychological studies have concluded that women need role models more than men and that women also benefit more than men from having same-gender examples of success. Imagining one’s own potential is more difficult for young women who lack role models. For many young people of both genders, the journey of developing one’s potential often begins with an understanding of what is possible. Possibilities are revealed by meaningful role models, both in and out of military uniform.
The biographies of the women who shared their stories with me are a mere microcosm of the total. A recruiting poster for West Point states: “Much of the history we teach was made by people we taught.” West Point’s women are making history. While women may have changed the face of West Point, they embody and maintain the ideals of duty, honor, country, and service to our Nation. The Long Gray Line marches on. My hope is that when you read this book, you will feel that you have come to know a few good women – fellow citizens who inspire us to reach our potential.
Donna M. McAleer