Citadel proves that Hell is not fit for heroines

JOHN CARLIN

Washington

At the age of 18 Shannon Faulkner had a dream. She wanted to see what Hell was like. It was a struggle to get there but last week, aged 20, she made it - whereupon she decided Hell wasn't for her, turned around and went home.

Hell is a South Carolina military college, the Citadel, which has been an all-male preserve during the 153 years of its existence. Ms Faulkner spent two years in court battles to be admitted. On Monday she turned up at the college to begin her first week of basic training. "Hell Week", the cadets call it.

The temperature was 100 degrees and within a couple of hours she, and three male cadets, were in the infirmary, with heatstroke. She spent four days there and then went to a hospital for tests, where she received the all-clear to resume training. On Friday afternoon she called a press conference and, under thunder and lightning and pouring rain, announced she had had enough.

Unearthly cries resounded around the Citadel. Cadets whooped, cheered, banged pipes, raised fists in victory, capered in the rain. "Shrew Shannon", as the in-house journal had described her, had buckled under the strain. The courts had failed but then the gods had intervened, heaping just punishment upon the impious one.

Ms Faulkner's enterprise had been noble. Bigger battles had already been fought and won 20 years ago by the first female entrants to West Point and the Naval and Air Force Academies. But the Citadel, a stepping-stone to the quasi-Masonic elite of South Carolina society, remained one of two publicly funded military colleges that still banned women.

Upon arriving on Monday the thought might have crossed her mind that admission should be prohibited to all human beings.

Quite apart from the murderous physical training regime, first-year cadets must endure scant sleep, menial duties and abuse from their superiors. During the first 12 months they may address "upperclassmen" in no more than three ways: "Sir, yes, sir!" "Sir, no, sir!" "Sir, excuse me, sir!" As if this were not intolerable enough, Ms Faulkner arrived in the presence of four federal marshals, on hand because of death threats she had received during her two-year legal quest. One marshal stayed with her all week and was at her side, arm over her shoulder, as she addressed her farewell press conference.

Ms Faulkner said she felt able to handle the physical demands but was leaving because she feared a mental breakdown. Holly Scroggs, the wife of a cadet, said later: "She doesn't belong here. She's proved that to everybody. There's something sacred left in America."

Another way of looking at Ms Faulkner's retreat from the Citadel is as a victory for common sense - one shared by 30 male cadets who followed her example, packed their kit and left.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital