Elaine Donnelly (writer)

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Elaine Donnelly is an American conservative activist and anti-feminist principally concerned with preserving the traditional culture of the U.S. military. She is a contributing editor at Human Events magazine.[1] She is the founder of the Center for Military Readiness which opposes the service of gay and transgender people and favors limiting the positions open to women in the United States military.[2][3][4][5] It has been described as a right-wing organisation by the SPLC and other sources.[6][7][8]

Elaine Chenevert Donnelly attended Schoolcraft College and the University of Detroit. She lives in Livonia, Michigan, with her husband, Terry, and is the mother of two grown daughters.[9]

Activism and employment[edit]

She spent several years as an activist in opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment as National Media Chair of Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum and then founded the Michigan Stop-ERA Committee.[10] She was active in Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign. She told an interviewer that her political engagement began with concern that initiatives to extend the rights of women would result in drafting women like her own daughter into the military and developed to the broader issue of women's participation in the military.[11]

In 1984, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger appointed her to a three-year term on the Defense Department Advisory Committee on Women in the Services.[12]

In 1992, she served as a member of the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces, a presidential commission that considered whether women should be allowed to fly combat missions, and joined the 8 to 7 majority that opposed such an expanded role in combat for women.[13] In 2009, she maintained that opposition when the roles available to women were expanding during combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.[14]

English professor and folklorist Carol Burke, in her 2004 study of the culture of the U.S. military, says:[15]

Elaine Donnelly, a protege of Phyllis Schlafly's, organized a concerted effort to inhibit women's advancement into nontraditional roles. Through her Center for Military Readiness, Donnelly staunchly fought any progress in this area and singled out for special attack the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services ...

Views on women in the military[edit]

Donnelly opposes the idea that women should be considered interchangeable with men in direct ground combat[16] (see Women in combat).

Donelly argues that reducing requirements in terms of female recruits' ability to handle physically demanding tasks may reduce the effectiveness of the whole unit,[17] and stated that "... there are separate gender-specific standards for the throwing of hand-grenades, primarily because comprehensive tests at Parris Island in 1987 and 1990 found that 45% of female Marines could not throw a live grenade safely beyond the 15 meter bursting radius".[18] Another opponent of gender norming, economist Walter E. Williams, states that "[o]fficers who insist that females be held accountable to the same high standards as males are seen by higher brass as obstructionist and risk their careers".[19]

Donnelly cited as evidence that the military was applying a "double standard" to men and women in the military the case of Lamar S. Owens Jr., a United States Naval Academy student expelled in 2007 for conducting unbecoming an officer after being found innocent of rape while his female accuser was not punished.[20] She has said that "The concept of equality does not fit in combat environments.... Women in combat units endanger male morale and military performance."[21] She has objected to allowing women to serve on submarines because the air quality poses "a high-risk cause of birth defects in unborn children—particularly in the early weeks of gestation when a woman may not even know she is pregnant". She said Admiral Mike Mullen was "thoughtlessly pushing for co-ed submarines, apparently to please military and civilian feminists".[22]

Views on homosexuals in the military[edit]

Donnelly opposes allowing gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military.[23] In 2006, she called the growing effort to repeal the U.S. military's "Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) policy that prohibited service by open gays and lesbians, "a big P.R. campaign". She said that "The law is there to protect good order and discipline in the military, and it's not going to change."[24] In March 2009, Donnelly gathered the signatures of more than a thousand retired military officers in opposition to the repeal of DADT, a letter cited by Sen. John McCain in Senate hearings.[25]

Views of her critics[edit]

The Palm Center's Aaron Belkin, who opposes Donnelly's positions on military personnel issues, has written that she "runs the brilliantly named Center for Military Readiness out of her living room in Livonia, Michigan."[26] He called her "the most prominent purveyor of the politics of paranoia" and an "archconservative who has spent years vilifying both gays and women in the military."[27]

Writing about a report that Donnelly compiled from stolen documents in the Kara Hultgreen case, Susan Barnes, an attorney for another female pilot mentioned in the report, stated that "the Report MISREPRESENTS the content of those training records. I know. I have read the Report and have compared it to the content of the training records.” She also described the CMR as "a radical right front for a woman named Elaine Donnelly who has a long, and very public, record of opposition to military women.”[28]

Donnelly has deposited some of her papers at the University of Michigan's Bentley Historical Library.[10]

Select works[edit]

  • "Constructing the Co-Ed Military". Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy. 14. May 2007.
  • "Defending the Culture of the Military". Attitudes Aren't Free: Thinking Deeply about Diversity in the US Armed Forces. Defense Department Social Policy Perspectives (Air University Press). 2010. ISBN 978-0982018521.


  1. ^ National Review: Elaine Donnelly’s Bio & Archive, accessed February 19, 2012
  2. ^ Military gender ideologies in the media, Gender Ideologies and Military Labor Markets in the U.S.
  3. ^ Breaking Out: VMI and the Coming of Women
  4. ^ Same-Sex Marriage Faces Military Limits
  5. ^ "Trump directive sparks criticism among transgender troops". Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-08-27.
  6. ^ "Anti-LGBT Roundup of Events and Activities 6.26.17". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  7. ^ Stachowitsch, Saskia (2011). Gender Ideologies and Military Labor Markets in the U.S. Routledge. p. 104. ISBN 978-0415667074. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  8. ^ Timothy Kaufman-Osborn. Ferguson, Michaele L. Ferguson; Marso, Lori Jo Marso (eds.). W Stands for Women: How the George W. Bush Presidency Shaped a New Politics of Gender. Duke University Press. p. 143. ISBN 978-0822340645. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  9. ^ Center for Military Readiness: Elaine Donnelly's Bio, accessed February 19, 2012
  10. ^ a b Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan: Elaine Chenevert Donnelly Papers, 1973–2003 1985–2001, accessed February 19, 2012
  11. ^ Deborah G. Douglas and Amy E. Foster, American Women and Flight Since 1940 (University Press of Kentucky, 2004), p. 302, available online, accessed March 26, 2012
  12. ^ Elaine Donnelly, "Constructing the Co-Ed Military," Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy, vol. 14 (May 2007), available online, accessed February 19, 2012
  13. ^ New York Times: "Ships, Yes. Planes, No.; Panel Rejects Major Role For Women in Combat," November 8, 1992, accessed February 19, 2012
  14. ^ New York Times: Lizette Alvarez, "G.I. Jane Breaks the Combat Barrier," August 115, 2009, accessed February 19, 2012
  15. ^ Carol Burke, Camp All-American, Hanoi Jane, and the High-and-tight: Gender, Folklore, and Changing Military Culture (Beacon Press, 2004), 128, available online, accessed February 19, 2012
  16. ^ Forcing females into combat is real ‘war on women’
  17. ^ "Women in Combat", The Center for Military Readiness
  18. ^ CMR Notes -- January, 1998
  19. ^ Gender Norming Update
  20. ^ Holly Yeager, "Soldiering Ahead," The Wilson Quarterly, vol. 31, no. 3 (Summer, 2007), 62
  21. ^ Hilary Neroni, The Violent Woman: Femininity, Narrative, and Violence in Contemporary American Cinema (State University of New York Press, 2005), 135, available online, accessed April 5, 2012
  22. ^ US News and World Report: Paul Bedard, "Group Cites Dangers of Submarine Air to Pregnant Women," September 28, 2009, accessed April 5, 2012
  23. ^ New York Times: Elaine Donnelly, "Military Life is Difficult Enough," May 3, 2009, accessed February 19, 2012
  24. ^ New York Times: John Files, "Advocates Hope Supreme Court Ruling Can Renew Attention to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'," March 13, 2006, accessed February 19, 2012
  25. ^ The Guardian: ",Retired military officers: keep ban on gays" March 31, 2009, accessed February 19, 2012
  26. ^ Aaron Belkin, How We Won: Progressive Lessons from the Repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (Kindle Edition, 2011), location 312
  27. ^ Belkin, How We Won, location 910
  28. ^ Skaine, Rosemarie Skaine (1998). Women at War: Gender Issues of Americans in Combat. McFarland & Co. p. 181. ISBN 978-0786405701.

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