March 23, 2019 10:05:47 PM
Tracy Crow doesn't think she is a trail blazer.
Instead, the former marine prefers to consider herself a "messenger" who is educating people about the women throughout history who have been pioneers in the military.
"I am just fortunate to have been led down this path, and I am just spreading the news as fast and as far as wide as possible," said Crow, a former professor turned author and editor. "I do feel the weight of this and the importance of it, but I don't really let it dwell on me too much. I am just making more and more people aware as often as I can. I love giving the voice to the voiceless."
Crow worked as editor with Jerri Bell, a former naval officer, on her latest venture, "It's My Country Too: Women's Military Stories from the American Revolution to Afghanistan." The book is an anthology of stories about the experiences and contributions of women in the American military in their own words. The stories are taken from research done by Bell and Crow into diaries, letters, oral histories, pension depositions and published and unpublished memoirs from generations of women. Crow said the book is designed to increase awareness of why and how women chose to serve their country even though they often had to break social norms and put their lives at risk.
"The truth is really embarrassing," Crow said. "My co-author and I were so mortified because with 30 years of military service between us neither of us had been exposed to the actual military history of women. It had never been taught to us, not in any of the officer training or enlisted training. Neither one of us had heard of most of the women. We never knew how women really became indoctrinated into military service."
Presented by the Ina E. Gordy Honors College, Crow's lecture, which is part of the Nell Peel Wolfe Lecture Series and The W's Homecoming weekend, will be from 6-7:30 p.m. March 28 in Nissan Auditorium in Parkinson Hall. The lecture is free and open to the public.
Barnes & Noble will have Crow's books for sale in the Hogarth Student Center and at the event. Crow will sign books following the lecture.
Crow, who is from Roanoke, Virginia, served in the Marines from 1977-87. She said she spent all but the first four or five month in public affairs. She also is the author of "Eyes Right: Confessions from a Woman Marine" and three other books.
Crow is president of MilSpeak Foundation Inc., a 501(C)3 public charitable organization. It grew from MilSpeak Creative Writing Seminars, the brainchild of retired and disabled Marine Corps veteran, Sally (Drumm) Parmer, who founded the creative writing workshops in August 2005 at Marine Corps Air Station, Beaufort, South Carolina.
Women's military stories
Crow was an assistant professor of journalism and creative writing at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. She had been an adjunct professor for several years before that and a visiting professor for two years. After leaving academia in 2013, she founded On Point Seminars & Workshops, named after her breakthrough writing text, On Point: A Guide to Writing the Military Story. She leads writing workshops, mostly for veterans and their families, around the country and online.
Crow hopes her books are helping to change the idea that women's military stories have been discounted or appropriated by others for many years. She feels women were oppressed in most societies for the last 2,000 years, which contributed to their stories being diminished, stolen or passed off as fiction. In reality, Crow said women have significantly contributed to the freedom and success of the United States of America. She and Bell agree that it was time to bring some of those stories to light. In doing so, she hopes the landscape will change for future generations of women who serve their country.
"Had we known those stories, oh my gosh we would have surpassed any of the external expectations on our career," Crow said. "Had the men understood whose shoulders they were standing on and whose shoes they were filling it would have been a very different military experience for us. That's why it is so important to us, and that's why it is so important for young, enlisted men to understand how important women and their service has been since the American Revolution. It is important for women to understand on whose shoulders they're standing."
Crow believes more people are beginning to understand the depth of the contributions women have made in the military. She feels the "Me Too Movement" shows women are speaking out for themselves more, are starting to listen more and are absorbing their history.
Crow hopes the curiosity and thirst for more stories will encourage men and women to learn about women like Deborah Sampson, who was the first women to "take a bullet for our country." Those are the words Academy Award winning actress Meryl Streep used to describe Sampson, who fought in the American Revolution under the name Robert Shurtlieff for two years, in a speech at the Democratic National Convention in July 2016.
Crow said she was elated to hear Streep talk about Sampson in her speech. She said Sampson isn't the only woman who has wanted so badly to serve their country. Crow also said Sampson wasn't the only one who dressed as a man to have an opportunity to risk her life. She said the anthology isn't meant to be a "war-mongering" collection. Instead, she said she and Bell worked on the book to show people women have always been there voluntarily, even if they had to disguise their identities or no one knew of their sacrifices.
Crow said she and Bell were "in awe" of the strength, fortitude and determination of all of the women they discovered through their research. She thanked all of the librarians and curators who helped them in their search for stories. Crow feels her research and writing has helped her come to terms with her military service and enabled her to capitalize on every aspect of her experiences.
"All of the positive ones and negatives ones have formed and shaped who I am today," Crow said. "I want to encourage others to see what gift they have and to document their experiences and to share."
IF YOU GO:
■ WHO: Mississippi University for Women
■ WHAT: Nell Peel Wolfe Lecture Series, Tracy Crow
■ WHEN: Thursday, March 28, 6-7:30 p.m.
■ WHERE: MUW Nissan Auditorium, Parkinson Hall
■ ADMISSION: Free to the public