Dole Institute traveling exhibit, “The League of Wives,” extends its run at the U.S. Naval Academy

February 1, 2024 - Features

by Sarah D’Antonio Gard | Senior Archivist and Head of Collections


The League of Wives exhibit first debuted at the Dole Institute in 2017, and has since reached over 100,000 guests during its tour of the United States.



The Dole Institute’s original traveling exhibit, The League of Wives: Vietnam’s POW/MIA Allies and Advocates, will be on display at the United States Naval Academy’s Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center through the end of May 2024, which will coincide with Commissioning Week—the Academy’s graduation and festivities. More than 100,000 people visit the Naval Academy every year, with the Visitor Center serving as their gateway.

The Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership first brought the exhibit to the Naval Academy in January 2023, where it was displayed in Mahan Hall as part of the Homecoming 50: Returned with Honor Commemorations, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of Operation Homecoming and the return of 591 American POWs home from North Vietnam beginning in February 1973.


The U.S. Naval Academy sees over 100,000 visitors annually, with the Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center serving as the academy’s gateway. Photo courtesy of the United States Naval Academy.


The exhibit tells the story of courageous military wives, Sybil Stockdale on the West Coast; Jane Denton, Louise Mulligan, and Phyllis Galanti on the East Coast; and later Helene Knapp in the Interior West. They organized to advocate for their husbands who were missing or imprisoned during the Vietnam War. After breaking their public silence in 1969, the women founded the National League of POW/MIA Families in 1970, changing the course of history and paving the way for their husbands’ release and accounting. Some national leaders, including Senator Bob Dole, became fervent advocates for them in the halls of the U.S. government.

“Women’s leadership and perseverance is at the core of this exhibit’s story, which also demonstrates that ordinary citizens can impact their government and the course of history through grassroots organization,” said Sarah Gard, Dole Institute Senior Archivist and Head of Collections.

“Sybil’s outstanding leadership, which, combined with that of Jim Stockdale in the dungeons of Hanoi, served to be the single most potent force in world media during the Vietnam War,” said Stockdale Center Assistant Director Dr. Shaun Baker. “Her efforts were vital in ensuring a vast majority of the POWs were accounted for, and ultimately repatriated at the close of the conflict.”


Sybil Stockdale, Jane Denton, Phyllis Galanti, and Helene Knapp were the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia’s most fervent advocates—pushing national leaders to advocate on their behalf in halls of government.


Named in honor of Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale, husband of Sybil Stockdale, the Stockdale Center’s mission is to empower leaders to make courageous ethical decisions. The exhibit opening coincided with 2023 Naval Academy Leadership Conference panel, Strength Through Adversity: The League of Wives, with Heath Hardage Lee and Army POW Wife Andrea Rander on last January.

League of Wives, produced by Lee, a former Dole Archives Curatorial Fellow, first debuted at the Dole Institute in 2017. Lee, a historian and biographer, published a book by the same name in 2019. After its residence at the Institute, League of Wives was reformatted into a traveling exhibit reaching over 100,000 visitors in six cities, including Colorado Springs, Colorado; Richmond, Virginia; Coronado, California; Neillsville, Wisconsin; and Des Moines, Iowa. The original exhibition was made possible by a gift from Harlan and Alice Ann Ochs of Colorado Springs, Colorado, with support from the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum and the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.



Sarah D’Antonio Gard, C.A., is the Institute’s Senior Archivist and Head of Collections. In her role, she preserves and provides access to the Robert and Elizabeth Dole Archives and Special Collections—one of the largest congressional archives in the United States. She holds a B.A. in art history from the University of Mary Washington and an M.S.I.S. with a specialization in archives and records enterprise from the University of Texas at Austin. Sarah is also an active member of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress and the Congressional Papers Section of the Society of American Archivists.

About the Dole Institute
The Dole Institute was dedicated on July 22, 2003, at the University of Kansas on Senator Bob Dole’s 80th birthday. Home to the personal archives of both Senator Bob and Senator Elizabeth Dole, with a museum facility on par with the U.S. Presidential libraries, the Dole Institute has been a vibrant political forum promoting civil discourse, civic engagement, and idea exchange across the political spectrum for 20 years.

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