By Judy Christie
When Maj. Gen. Mari K. Eder, USA (Ret), learned in 2017 about a woman who joined the Women's Army Corps in World War II and became a counterintelligence agent for the Office of Strategic Services, she was intrigued.
“I was so surprised to learn her story and — as members of the Greatest Generation continued to pass from this earth in greater numbers — I kept finding more,” she said. “As an Army officer, I kept thinking, ‘Why don’t I know about these people? These units? They did incredible things.’”
The answer, she discovered, “was that these stories were not mainstream enough to be considered important,” Eder said. “They are important. And those women do not deserve to be forgotten. The history of those times isn’t just about the politicians or the generals or the battles. It is about every contribution, every person who supported, helped, or fought in their own way.”
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That conviction inspired Eder, a Life Member of MOAA, to write The Girls Who Stepped Out of Line: Untold Stories of the Women Who Changed the Course of WWII (Sourcebooks, 2021), exploring the experiences of 15 unknown women heroes who served, fought, struggled, and made things happen during World War II, in and out of uniform.
“These were average people who found themselves in extraordinary situations and rose to the challenge,” she said. “That their stories were forgotten or dismissed from the history books is a mistake that I’m glad to see being corrected on many levels and by many people who still remember.”
The first book led to The Girls Who Fought Crime: The Untold True Story of the Country's First Female Investigator and Her Crime Fighting Squad (Sourcebooks 2023), about a woman who dedicated her life to the New York Police Department, upending the status quo for women in public service. Eder is now researching women trailblazers in sports.
For her attention to history, Eder has been awarded the Daughters of the American Revolution Medal of Honor and been named the 2023 Historic Hotels of America Historian of the Year.
“We are pleased to recognize General Eder for her many years of exemplary service to our country and her enormous contribution as an author and historian. She preserves and shares the stories that must be told about the extraordinary, and often unrecognized and nearly forgotten, achievements of numerous women during World War II,” said Lawrence P. Horwitz, executive vice president, Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide.
Eder’s own career has been tied up with history. After five years on active duty, she served in the Army Reserve for more than 20 years, recalled to active duty after 9/11. She has held senior positions in the Pentagon, on the Army Staff, as deputy chief of Public Affairs and deputy chief of the Army Reserve and with DoD’s Reserve Forces Policy Board and is an expert on strategic communication.
However, she admits with a smile, while history is her passion, her affection belongs to her three rescue dogs, Liza, Parker, and Wallace. She devotes time and energy to helping dog rescue groups, has fostered and transported two dozen rescue dogs in recent years, and wrote two books in the voice of her beloved miniature Schnauzer, Benson, who died 2017.
Judy Christie is a writer based in Colorado.
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