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Reconsidering Women, the Draft, and the Duties of Citizenship Series

In principle, we aren’t merely flattering contemporary prejudices when we invoke the long history of republican women, from Lucrecia to Portia to modern Americans, to show that civic-minded, patriotic women strengthen self-governing nations. As long as our armed forces have existed, women have taken it upon themselves to serve honorably in or alongside of them, hiding their gender, seeing combat “unofficially,” or serving in support roles that have often involved bullets and capture by the enemy.

It’s heartening to think of women’s demonstrated potential both in their willingness to serve their country and their ability to do so. Should the occasion arise in future, we should hope for and celebrate women and men rising to the challenge. But neither the presidential candidates nor the nation is truly debating whether women can be called upon to serve their country. We are also not, actually, debating “The Draft”— military conscription.