She didn’t serve in the military herself. But she saw the armed services denying equal benefits to female veterans, and she crusaded to make a difference.
June A. Willenz, a longtime human rights activist and champion of women in the military, died on May 3 in Bethesda, Md. She was 95.
Her daughter Pam Willenz confirmed the death. She said Ms. Willenz had had a heart attack after emergency hip surgery.
Ms. Willenz was an advocate for women in the armed forces at a time when they were largely ignored. Her 1983 book, “Women Veterans: America’s Forgotten Heroines,” provided one of the first comprehensive examinations of women in the armed services. It exposed inequities between men and women and led to congressional hearings, as well as to improved benefits, services and career opportunities for women.
As devoted as she was to women veterans, Ms. Willenz never served in the military herself. Her focus on
“She had files of causes she wanted to be a part of,” Pam Willenz said in an interview. “If anything crossed her path with a human rights or social justice element, she wanted to dig deeper and see what she could do about it.”
Causes that drew her attention ranged from rape victims in Africa to the mistreatment of pets in the United States.
But her biggest cause was striving to achieve equality and recognition for women and other marginalized people in the armed services. She brought veterans’ voices into the civil rights movement. She was the first woman to lead a presidential subcommittee on disabled veterans; she developed the first Legal Aid project for veterans with discharge problems; and she worked with Congress to create special offices for women and members of minority groups within the Veterans Administration, now the Department of Veterans Affairs. She even wrote one-act plays dramatizing the conflicts confronting women in the military.