Today (March 8th) is International Women’s Day, and we’re celebrating with books about women during wartime. Women have made many contributions and sacrifices during wartime throughout history, both on the home front and the front lines of battle.
In the Classical world, you may recognize the names of women warriors like Cleopatra, Boudicca, and Zenobia. During World War 2, female snipers were part of the Soviet Red Army, and a few carefully-selected women in the US and the UK were briefly given the unprecedented opportunity to fly military aircraft. In the books below you’ll find these and more stories of the bravery, contributions, and sacrifices of women during wartime.
The best part? These titles are 25% off through March 12th!
Sisters in Arms
During World War II, a few, carefully selected women in the US and the UK were briefly given the unprecedented opportunity to fly military aircraft. Yet the story of these pioneer women pilots is made even more intriguing by the fact that, despite many notable similarities in the utilization and organization of the women in their respective countries, they experienced radically different fates.
Throughout the war, the contribution of the women of the British ATA to the war effort was recognized and praised both from official quarters and in the press. By contrast, the American WASPs were first glamorized and made into Hollywood stars – and then subjected to a slander campaign. What accounts for this dramatic difference in the treatment of women pilots doing essentially the same job?
This book seeks to answer these questions. The women who participated in the ATA and WASP have been allowed to speak for themselves. The story these women have to tell is exciting and intriguing.
Women in the Great War
The First World War was fought on two fronts. In a military sense it was fought on the battlefields throughout Europe, the Gallipoli peninsular and other such theaters of war, but on the Home Front it was the arduous efforts of women that kept the country running.
Before the war women in the workplace were employed in such jobs as domestic service, clerical work, shop assistants, teachers or as barmaids. These jobs were nearly all undertaken by single women, as once they were married their job swiftly became that a of a wife, mother and home maker. The outbreak of the war changed all of that. Suddenly, women were catapulted into a whole new sphere of work that had previously been the sole domain of men. Women began to work in munitions factories, as nurses in military hospitals, bus drivers, mechanics, taxi drivers, as well as running homes and looking after children, all whilst worrying about their men folk who were away fighting a war in some foreign clime, not knowing if they were ever going to see them again.
With the work came a wage, which provided women with financial freedom for the first time, as well as an element of independence and social integration, which they would have possibly never otherwise experienced. Women were not paid the same wages as men for doing the same work, but what they did earn was much more than they had ever earned before.
This was also a time of the suffrage movement, who wanted more out of life for women. Accordingly, some of these women were reluctant to stop working, with some of these being sacked so that returning soldiers could have their prewar jobs back. Whilst, tens of thousands of women were left widowed, many with young children to bring up. Despite all of this, one thing was for sure, for lots of women there was no going back to how things had been before the war. There was only going to be one way, and that was forward.
Women at War in the Classical War
Paul Chrystal has written the first full length study of women and warfare in the Graeco Roman world. Although the conduct of war was generally monopolized by men, there were plenty of exceptions with women directly involved in its direction and even as combatants, Artemisia, Olympias, Cleopatra and Agrippina the Elder being famous examples. And both Greeks and Romans encountered women among their ‘barbarian’ enemies, such as Tomyris, Boudicca and Zenobia.
More commonly, of course, women were directly affected by war as noncombatant victims, of rape and enslavement as spoils of war and this makes up an important strand of the author’s discussion. The portrayal of female warriors and goddesses in classical mythology and literature, and the use of war to justify gender roles and hierarchies, are also considered. Overall it is a landmark survey of how war in the Classical world affected and was affected by women.
U.S. Army Captain Kimberly N. Hampton was living her dream: flying armed helicopters in combat and commanding D Troop, 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry, the armed reconnaissance aviation squadron of the 82nd Airborne Division. An all-American girl from a small southern mill town, Kimberly was a top scholar, student body president, ROTC battalion commander, and highly ranked college tennis player. In 1998 she was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army. Then, driven by determination and ambition, Kimberly rapidly rose through the ranks in the almost all-male bastion of military aviation to command a combat aviation troop.
On January 2, 2004, Captain Hampton was flying an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter above Fallujah, Iraq, in support of a raid on an illicit weapons marketplace, searching for an illusive sniper on the rooftops of the city. A little past noon her helicopter was wracked by an explosion. A heat-seeking surface-to-air missile had gone into the exhaust and knocked off the helicopter’s tail boom. The helicopter crashed, killing Kimberly.
Kimberly’s Flight is the story of Captain Hampton’s exemplary life. This story is told through nearly fifty interviews and her own e-mails to family and friends, and is entwined with Ann Hampton’s narrative of loving and losing a child.
Retired award-winning journalist Anna Simon was been a reporter with The Greenville News in South Carolina for 21 years. She received the South Carolina Press Association’s first place award for Reporting in Depth for 2009, and is a past recipient of multiple awards in education reporting, the press association’s Judson Chapman Award for Community Service, and other news and feature writing awards.
Kimberly’s mother, Ann Hampton, first met Anna Simon at the bleakest point in her life, immediately following her daughter’s death, when Ms. Simon wrote a series of stories for The Greenville News about Kimberly’s life and the reaction in the small Southern town of Easley, SC to her death. Ann has traveled twice to Iraq, in 2010, as a Gold Star Mom in a “Hugs for Healing” program sanctioned by the U.S. State Department, where American and Iraqi mothers grieving the deaths of their children worked side-by-side on humanitarian projects, and in 2011 on a humanitarian mission with “Friends of Kurdistan.”
Women Wartime Spies
From Mata Hari through to Noor Inyat Khan, women spies have rarely received the recognition they deserve. They have often been trivialized and, in cinema and popular fiction, stereotyped as vamps or dupes. The reality is very different. As spies, women have played a critical role during wartime, receiving and passing on vital information, frequently at considerable risk. Often able to blend into their background more easily than their male counterparts, women have worked as couriers, transmitters and with resistance fighters, their achievements often unknown. Many have died. Ann Kramer describes the role of women spies during wartime, with particular reference to the two world wars. She looks at why some women chose to become spies, their motives and backgrounds. She looks at the experience of women spies during wartime, what training they received, and what skills they needed. She examines the reality of life for a woman spy, operating behind enemy lines, and explores and explodes the myths about women spies that continue until the present day. The focus is mainly on Britain but will also take an international view as appropriate.
A Spitfire Girl
We visualize dashing and daring young men as the epitome of the pilots of the Second World War, yet amongst that elite corps was one person who flew no less than 400 Spitfires and seventy-six different types of aircraft – and that person was Mary Wilkins.
Her story is one of the most remarkable and endearing of the war, as this young woman, serving as a ferry pilot with the Air Transport Auxiliary, transported aircraft for the RAF, including fast fighter planes and huge four-engine bombers. On one occasion Mary delivered a Wellington bomber to an airfield, and as she climbed out of the aircraft the RAF ground crew ran over to her and demanded to know where the pilot was! Mary said simply: ‘I am the pilot!’ Unconvinced the men searched the aircraft before they realized a young woman had indeed flown the bomber all by herself.
After the war she accepted a secondment to the RAF, being chosen as one of the first pilots, and one of only three women, to take the controls of the new Meteor fast jet. By 1950 the farmer’s daughter from Oxfordshire with a natural instinct to fly became Europe’s first female air commandant.
In this authorized biography the woman who says she kept in the background during her ATA years and left all the glamour of publicity to her colleagues, finally reveals all about her action-packed career which spans almost a century of aviation, and her love for the skies which, even in her nineties, never falters.
She says: ‘I am passionate for anything fast and furious. I always have been since the age of three and I always knew I would fly. The day I stepped into a Spitfire was a complete joy and it was the most natural thing in the world for me.’
The Real Tenko
This book details the treatment of Allied service-women, female civilians and local women by the Japanese occupation forces. While a number of memoirs have been published there is no dedicated volume. It chronicles the massacres of nurses (such as that at Alexandra Hospital, Singapore), disturbing atrocities on both European and Asians, and accounts of imprisonment.
It reveals how many ended up in Japanese hands when they should have been evacuated. Also covered are the hardships of long marches and the sexual enslavement of white and native women (so called ‘Comfort Women’).
The book is a testimony both to the callous and cruel behavior of the Japanese and to the courage and fortitude of those who suffered at their hands.
Into Enemy Arms
Ditha Bruncel’s detailed memory of living in Germany during the Second World War provides a rare, first-hand insight into the day-to-day struggle against Nazi oppression, when even small acts of defiance or resistance carried great personal risk.
In 1945 Ditha was living with her parents in the small town of Lossen, in Upper Silesia. Close Jewish friends had vanished, swastikas hung from every building, and neighbors were disappearing in the middle of the night. At the same time more than one thousand, five hundred British and Commonwealth airmen were being marched out of Stalag Luft VII, a POW camp in Upper Silesia. Twenty three of these prisoners managed to escape from the marching column and by chance hobbled into Lossen. One amongst them, Warrant Officer Gordon Slowey, was the man Ditha was destined to meet and fall in love with.
This book tells the extraordinary story of Ditha and the escaped POWs she helped to save. Together they embarked on a dangerous and daring flight out of Germany. As they faced exhaustion, hunger, extreme cold and the constant risk of discovery, Ditha and Gordon’s love for one another intensified, and so did their determination to survive and escape together.
Click here to view all of the titles featured in our International Women’s Day special offer.