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Margarethe Cammermeyer

Updated on March 6, 2013

Margarethe Cammermeyer - Gay Rights Activist and War Veteran

Margarethe "Grethe" Cammermeyer was a veteran of the US army, serving as a nurse for thirty one years around the world, including Vietnam. She reached the rank of Colonel and received a number of awards. She was both principled, strong, and successful and in 1991 she famously told the army that "I am a lesbian". She was discharged - and then successfully sued the army and was reinstated.

The film Serving in Silence is a documentary of her story. I had never heard of her until I stumbled over the trailer on YouTube. I'm pretty sure most of you haven't heard of her either, and you should.

Had You Ever Heard Of Margarethe Cammermeyer?

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It is only by challenging others with our humanity that we will become human in their eyes.

Margarethe Cammermeyer with the producer of Serving in Silence, Barbara Streisand
Margarethe Cammermeyer with the producer of Serving in Silence, Barbara Streisand

Awards and Honours

Bronze Star for Meritorious Service (Vietnam)Nurse of the Year by the Department of Veterans Affairs (1985)Woman of Power by the National Organization of WomenHonorary Human Rights Award by the American Nurses AssociationHannah Solomon Award by the Jewish Women's League (1995)1995 Distinguished Alumna from the University of Washington School of Nursing.

Serving in Silence: The Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer

I started watching the trailer for Serving in Silence when I was putting together the page on lesbian books and films, and that is how I discovered this woman, and decided I had to write something about her.

Glenn Close won an Emmy for this film, and the film won, in total, three Emmy Awards and the prestigious Peabody Award.

Glenn Close played Margarethe Cammermeyer in this mostly true story of her fight against the US army when they wanted to fire her under DADT (...for 'engaging in immoral conduct').

Serving in Silence: The Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer Story
Serving in Silence: The Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer Story

Glenn Close won an Emmy for her portrayal of Margarethe Cammermeyer in this 1995 made-for-television film. An army medical officer in line for a career promotion during the first Bush Administration, but suddenly faced discharge proceedings after admitting to being a lesbian, the real-life Cammermeyer became a focus of national attention on the issue of gays in the military. This sensitive production focuses on Cammermeyer's decision to fight institutional bigotry and the way her family and that of her longtime partner, Diane Divelbess (Judy Davis, who also won an Emmy), rally to support these good people. The script by Alison Cross captures the sad irony of doing everything right--serving one's country, taking care of the people in one's life--yet still being treated like a pariah for entirely irrational reasons. A bit of dismissible controversy arose about a discreet kiss between the principals, but for the most part this film is designed to win over the hearts and minds of a broad audience with its sheer humanity. --Tom Keogh


Books Written By Margarethe Cammermeyer - Books she had a hand in writing

If I am uncomfortable, it is where I need to be.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Gay Rights and the Military - Books that cover Margarethe Cammermeyer's story and DADT

Margarethe Cammermeyer was asked if she ever engaged in homosexual behaviour in 1989, during the first Bush administration. The Don't Ask Don't Tell policy was a compromise brought in by Clinton in 1993.

Quick, what do you think of Margarethe Cammermeyer?

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Share your stories, sightings, thoughts, rants, raves...

Shout Out For Margarethe Cammermeyer!

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    • emmaklarkins profile image

      emmaklarkins 7 years ago

      Never heard about Margarethe before this, but it's interesting because I was just reading a bit about the don't ask don't tell debates, and there are a lot of deep issues there. Blessed by a Squidoo Angel.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      I never heard of her before this lens, really glad I got to learn about her!