John Wayne usually played the lead role in World War II movies, but he certainly wouldn’t have been right for the part of any of these 26 daring and brave female heroes who risked their lives to defeat Hitler and save the victims of Nazi aggression.
Even though many, many women served in the military during World War II and provided services essential to the Allied victory, they were never sent into combat. Women Heroes of World War II tells the stories of women who were not part of an organized military effort but fought alongside their male counterparts in the Resistance movement.
Some of these women, like Josephine Baker and Marlene Dietrich, were famous celebrities who used their money and powerful contacts to hide Jewish victims of the Holocaust, to pass messages to other Resistance members, and to boost morale and assure service men and women that their efforts were making a difference.
Most of the women that Atwood writes about, though, served the Allied cause anonymously. Pearl Witherington, a young Englishwoman, parachuted into France and spent several years as the leader of a group of maquisards (French Resistance fighters), often fighting in direct battles against Nazi forces.
American Virginia Hall was one of Nazi Germany’s most wanted Resistance fighters. At various times, she posed as a journalist, a farmer, even a little old lady, using her disguises and her fluency in the French language to aid the maquis. Like most Resistance fighters, she had many responsibilities, including locating safe drop-spots where Allies could parachute into the country undetected. Virginia also planned and managed numerous sabotage attacks on German convoys, which is what made her such a dangerous enemy for the German army.
Fourteen-year-old Stefania Podgorska of Poland was left to fend for herself after her guardian was sent to Auschwitz, the infamous Nazi concentration camp where so many victims died. Her city was occupied by German soldiers who soon moved into the house where Stefania was hiding 13 Jews. Her cool head and determination to protect her friends is all that stood between life and execution for them all.
These are just a few of the stories of courage coupled with compassion and moral fortitude told in Women Heroes of World War II. Included are photographs of the women profiled, a glossary to explain the many terms unique to the era, brief explanations of what was happening in each country and around the world at the time these lady heroes served, and suggestions for further research. Women Heroes of World War II is full of inspiring history, enough to assure any girl or woman that Rosie the Riveter and her sisters were right when they declared We Can Do It!