Featuring artifacts, photographs, and oral histories, The League of Wives illustrates the dramatic story of how the spouses of American servicemen bucked government protocol and challenged the traditional role of “military wife.”
About the image: President Nixon meets with POW wives Carole Hansen, Louise Mulligan, Sybil Stockdale, Andrea Rander, and Mary Mearns in December 1969. Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum.
As early as March 1964, even before active combat units were deployed to Vietnam, American servicemen were taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese. For years, with little or no information about their husband’s status, wives waited at home in silence, following the United States’ government’s orders to “Keep Quiet.” They decided to take matters into their own hands, organizing privately, until challenging the Johnson administration’s stance—and finding allies in President Richard M. Nixon, Congress, and others. These courageous women, led by Sybil Stockdale on the West Coast, Jane Denton, Louise Mulligan, and Phyllis Galanti on the East Coast, and later Helene Knapp in the Interior West, organized to form the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia on May 28, 1970. They would go to extraordinary lengths to facilitate their husbands’ freedom.
Curated by 2017 Dole Archives Curatorial Fellow Heath Hardage Lee and based on her upcoming book, The League of Wives: The Untold Story of the Women Who Took on the U.S. Government to Bring Their Husbands Home (2019, St. Martin’s Press). The League of Wives was organized by the Dole Institute of Politics and made possible by Harlan and Alice Ann Ochs in honor of Larry Ochs.
Banner Lecture: The League of Wives: The Untold Story of the Women Who Took on the U.S. Government to Bring Their Husbands Home from Vietnam by Heath Hardage Lee - Friday, April 5, 2019 from 5:30-6:30 pm