Women's work: Women's involvement in the gulf War illness movement

TE Shriver
Amy Chasteen Miller, University of Southern Mississippi
S Cable


We use in-depth interviews, participant observation, and document analysis to examine women's involvement in the Gulf War Illness movement. We find that women's cumulative grievances of health concerns, financial hardships, and emotional problems opened them to movement recruitment as they surfed the Internet for information and support. The movement's division of labor was influenced not by gender but by health status. Women used the Internet to provide medical information and emotional support to geographically dispersed veterans. Activism transformed women activists by endowing them with a sense of empowerment and a somewhat broadened concern for social justice. Although their transformations disposed the women to become active on related issues, it did not extend to concerns about gender discrimination. We suggest that the next research step is to investigate gender differences in movement processes by surveying activists across a variety of movements to test propositions and to identify the characteristics of other social contexts that structurally instigate a departure from traditional gender roles.