The Sodexo Lecture
On February 12, 1973, one hundred and fifteen men who, just six years earlier, had been high- flying Navy and Air Force pilots, shuffled, limped, or were carried off a huge military transport plane at Clark Air Base in the Philippines. These American servicemen had endured years of brutal torture, kept shackled and starving in solitary confinement, in rat-infested, mosquito-laden prisons, the worst of which was The Hanoi Hilton.
Months later, the first Vietnam POWs to return home would learn that their rescuers were their wives, a group of women that included Jane Denton (a 1948 Mary Washington College graduate), Sybil Stockdale, Louise Mulligan, Andrea Rander, Phyllis Galanti, and Helene Knapp. These women who helped form The National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia would never have called themselves “feminists,” but they had become the POW and MIAs most fervent advocates, going to extraordinary lengths to facilitate their husbands’ freedom -- and to account for missing military men -- by relentlessly lobbying government leaders, conducting a savvy media campaign, conducting covert meetings with antiwar activists, attempting to negotiate on their own with the North Vietnamese, and most astonishingly, helping to code secret letters to their imprisoned husbands.
Heath Lee will discuss the activities of these remarkable women, drawing on first-person interviews, diaries, letters and oral histories and government and archival records to tell this story of courage, resilience, and rescue.
Speaker: Heath Hardage Lee
Heath Hardage Lee comes from a museum education and curatorial background, and she has worked at history museums across the country. She holds a B.A. in History with Honors from Davidson College, and an M.A. in French Language and Literature from the University of Virginia. Heath served as the 2017 Robert J. Dole Curatorial Fellow; her exhibition entitled The League of Wives: Vietnam POW MIA Advocates & Allies about Vietnam POW MIA wives premiered at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics in May of 2017 and will travel to museums throughout the U.S. through 2020.
Heath’s first book, Winnie Davis: Daughter of the Lost Cause (2014), won the 2015 Colonial Dames of America Annual Book Award as well as a 2015 Gold Medal for Nonfiction from the Independent Publisher Book Awards. Heath has recently completed her second book, a narrative nonfiction work entitled The League of Wives: The Untold Story of the Women Who Took on the U.S. Government to Bring Their Husbands Home from Vietnam, about the courageous wives of American Prisoners of War and Missing in Action during the Vietnam War.