Study Shows Power of P.O.W. Wives

Steven L. Smith, doctoral candidate at the University of San Diego School of Leadership and Education Sciences, defends his dissertation titled “The Reluctant Sorority” Thursday, April 13, at 10 a.m. at Manchester Conference Center. Smith, a former Navy chaplain, has studied the stories of American wives of prisoners of war (POW) and missing in action (MIA) from 1965-1973, and has explored the links between their public actions on behalf of their husbands and the shifts in governmental policy.

Smith’s research shows the wives, who named themselves the reluctant sorority, had a significant impact on reversing the State Department’s policy of “quiet diplomacy” and on keeping the POW/MIA issue in the forefront during the Nixon administration’s peace negotiations with the Vietnamese. The study reveals a number of strategies that the wives used to influence public officials and that others who wish to provide leadership in the absence of formal power might employ.

Smith has interviewed surviving wives, former governmental officials and analyzed Presidential papers held by the National Archives. Several of the interviewees will attend the defense on Thursday. The defense is open to the public.

The University of San Diego is a Catholic institution of higher learning chartered in 1949; the school enrolls some 7,200 students and is known for its commitment to teaching, the liberal arts, the formation of values and community service. The establishment of the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies will bring the university’s total number of schools and colleges to six. Other academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences and the schools of Business Administration, Education, Law and Nursing and Health Sciences.


About the University of San Diego

The University of San Diego sets the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university where innovative Changemakers confront humanity’s urgent challenges. With more than 8,000 students from 75 countries and 44 states, USD is the youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. USD’s eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, the School of Law, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. USD recently concluded our successful $317M Leading Change: The Campaign for USD, which represented the most ambitious fundraising effort in the history of the university. In September 2016, USD introduced Envisioning 2024, a strategic plan that capitalizes on the university’s recent progress and aligns new strategic goals with current strengths to help shape a vision for the future as the university looks ahead to its 75th anniversary in the year 2024.


Pamela Gray Payton
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