Writing a book is such an adventure. It always fills me with excitement and stimulation. The research, writing and rewriting are so interesting and thought-provoking. You are transported beyond your comfort zone, forced to confront new information and new ideas and meet such interesting new people across time and space. Writing is also a process that can be therapeutic as well as exhilarating. It can become something of an obsession, albeit a good one. I have always enjoyed doing a book.

Certainly, writing a book for me was a magnificent obsession to have during the COVID-19 pandemic. The action became refuge and a diversion as well as a purposeful occupation. While working on it during the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020, I stopped to realize that I had been writing books for 57 years, ever since I began my master’s thesis in 1964. I realized I had been teaching even longer, having given a lecture to a Bowdoin history class in 1961, and subsequently teaching as a teaching assistant at Tufts with later stints at Dartmouth, Vassar, and finally at Bowdoin. Lecturing for 60 years. That’s a lot of time at the podium.

During my whole adult life I have been writing a book.

And I have been teaching.

I have truly loved teaching and writing both, especially that powerfully rewarding, never-ending feedback loop with research and writing and delivery and being questioned in class and doing more research and subsequent writing and then more teaching.

Teaching with Zoom, while it turned out to be necessary and useful, was nowhere near as rewarding (or effective) as teaching in person. But continuing to write books and creating lectures in anticipation of a return to the classroom remained intensely rewarding and fulfilling.

Fortunately, when COVID-19 hit, I was already researching and outlining Hiding in Plain Sight: Women Warriors throughout Time and Space, which was an expansion of my Bowdoin course “The Daughters of Mars.” Having taught courses on the Korean War, government, war and society, and conflict simulation and conflict resolution, I was intrigued by the tantalizingly brief accounts of women in much of traditional military writing and with the now-ongoing reevaluation of the role of women in warfare from Black history, social history, women’s studies, and LGBTQ? studies. Explorations with their new perspectives have proceeded rapidly in recent years. Indeed, over time, there was a true flood of new or newly examined material including the myriad of findings (some real, some suspect) provided by the Internet on such sites as Wikipedia and Military Wiki.

This book then arose out of my explorations and extrapolations from my first-year seminar, “The Daughters of Mars” which featured women in warfare throughout history. In this regard, I am very grateful to Bowdoin’s Dean of Faculty, Jennifer Scanlon, who came to the faculty seminar where I first presented some of my most exciting initial findings and from beginning to end, encouraged me with this project. And very high marks go to President Clayton Rose, who managed Bowdoin through the COVID-19 crisis with skill and dispatch and compassion.

Writing a book during the pandemic also offered some additional possibilities as time taken from now-forbidden or truncated activities could be used for research and writing. And distractions, except for the big ones of personal health and safety concerns, were actually fewer and fewer. In addition, writing a book offered a much-needed and welcome distraction from those concerns. It was indeed a relief to be transported through time and space with each new discovery of an understudied or even virtually unknown woman warrior.

The closure of Bowdoin College and the concomitant new sanitizing rules greatly diminished access to the library and interlibrary loan, putting additional strains on both its staff and library patrons. It took the hard work of dedicated professionals to keep the fires of research burning brightly, so I begin here with an extra special thank-you to Carman Greenlee, Jamie Jones, Amy Heggie, and the rest of the Bowdoin Library staff, especially Guy Saldanha, Bart D’Alauro, Alida Snow, Laura Bean, and others for their collective efforts to keep the flow of books coming despite all the impediments of COVID-19 and related shutdown problems.

Thanks too to Peter and Margie Webster, who added numerous women warriors to our investigation of that amazing cohort, as well many trenchant comments about the content of various chapters. They added much zest to the proceedings. And, as always, appreciation goes to Lynn Atkinson, whose labors as executive secretary and governmental coordinator go beyond the call of duty and then some.

Kudos also to Gil Barndollar for providing useful materials and challenging insights as an undergraduate, U.S. Marine, and now think tank maven and encouragement for the title of this work also came from longtime good friends Lyle and John Gibbons. Others, like Andy Rudalevege, added seldom-included women warriors from unusual places. Special appreciation is also expressed to the DeAlva Stanwood Alexander Professorship research fund and for the extra assistance of Lynne Atkinson and Ann Oswald.

I appreciate all of your help.

I have always been most fortunate in having excellent research assistants, and I was truly blessed to have two outstanding ones during these tumultuous times. A heartfelt thanks to Carolyn Shipley, whose inspiration and hard work on finding women warriors during the initial dark days of COVID-19 kept us both sane and focused as she transitioned from teaching assistant to research assistant with skill and dispatch.

Upon her graduation and entrance into the outside workforce, Carolyn’s place was taken by the amazing Elise Hocking, whose ability to find scholarly articles on women warriors wherever they have been hiding out quickly became legendary. She plans to be a lawyer, in which profession she will, no doubt, leave no fragment of data unfound. Woe to miscreants from far and wide if she is put on their trail. Elise’s work ethic and cheerful demeanor will make her much in demand. I am deeply grateful for all her hard work and engaging insights.

Thanks also to Michy Martinez, as well, for initially stimulating my interest in the soldaderas of the Mexican Revolution, their important presence underscoring as it does not only women as supporters of armies, but also as military participants and also, how some of the revolutionary armies and situations provided avenues for transgender migration.

As I have been for these past 40 years, I am most grateful for the friendship, comradeship, and support of Jed Lyons. There are many editors and many publishers, but there is only one Jed Lyons, the author’s best and most trusted friend. Nor are there any with a better sense of humor. And we have happily had each other’s back for lo these nearly 50 years. His long friendship has been a true blessing and is most gratefully appreciated. Jed is a singular presence.

I especially appreciate the fine editorial supervision of his Roman & Little-field acquisitions and production teams, including April Snider and Catherine Herman.

In addition, this book is dedicated to three wonderful, strong, and loving women who have made our three-generation family happy beyond words. In addition to my wife Sandra, Erica Burgess Potholm and Heather Potholm Davis, respectively daughter-in-law and daughter, are touchstone role models for our entire family. Warm and caring, infused with a joy for life and a desire to make all more content, grandly nurturing, they have provided wonderful home environments for our three grandchildren, Noah, Aiden, and Will and admirable partners for their husbands, Erik Dodds Potholm and Bruce Davis (both of whom themselves are inspirational as well). Their collective astute inspections of, and interactions with, life and people are a joy to behold. They are generous, gracious, and loving partners and have greatly enriched our family’s collective life.

And to my students over the years at Tufts, Dartmouth, Vassar, and Bowdoin—you have kept me young at heart and spirit, and fully and happily engaged in the educational process. It has been truly joyful.

Finally, as with every other book I have ever written, including my 1964 MALD thesis, I hasten to deeply acknowledge the many contributions of Sandy Quinlan Potholm, whose unstinting support and assistance, including a most careful proofreading and editing of the entire manuscript, were outstanding contributions to the entire project. Sandra is the love of my life, my inspiration, my muse, and my best editor ever. With great love and appreciation I ask of her only one more thing, Lascia Che Duri.

And if that cannot be, let Heaven be where we live our married life all over again.

Thank you all,

Christian Potholm

DeAlva Stanwood Alexander

Professor of Government Bowdoin College




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