I was lucky enough to be contacted by Kathryn J Atwood, author of several books about the extraordinary lives of women during the First & Second World Wars. Kathyrn had come across the Sheroes of History blog, and rightly guessed that I might be interested in reading her books.
I have just finished the copy Kathryn sent me of Women Heroes of World War II, a fantastic book which traverses the global scene of the Second World War and tells the stories of 26 courageous women who risked their lives to help others.
The book takes us on a geographical tour through many of the countries which were involved in the war, across Europe and to the United States. An excellent introduction to each country’s situation is given at the start of every chapter. I learnt so much from these overviews. Having studied WW2 at school, and worked in a museum for seven years teaching others about the war, I was surprised at how many new pieces of information I found out. Kathryn sets the political and social scene in a way which is clear and easy to understand. It’s great when an author doesn’t assume you already know something, and yet manages to explain the details without sounding patronising. Because of this I would say that this book is suitable for young people just learning about the Second World War, but also for those of us who are more familiar with it.
After these great introductions we move on to finding out about the women involved in the Allied struggle within that country.
There were a few names which I had heard before, including Nancy Wake, ‘The White Mouse’, who worked for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and was on the Nazi’s most wanted list, or the brave Sophie Scholl, a young German who lost her life for daring to speak out against the Nazis.
But there were so many names I had not heard of, to my shame. Women who did incredible things and whose stories deserve to be told. It’s hard to pick out just a few to mention here, when each and every one are utterly inspiring in their own way. From the French Marie-Madeleine Fourcade who organised and led a huge resistance network of around 3000 spies, to the red-headed Hannie Schaft who became a symbol of the resistance movement in The Netherlands. Then there are the women who sheltered Jews, like ‘the teen who saved thirteen’ Stefania Podgorska from Poland, and those who helped allied servicemen escape – like Andrée de Jongh from Belgium, whose escape route known as ‘The Comet Line‘ enabled approximately 700 of them to reach freedom.
There are many more incredible women found within the pages of Atwood’s book, my recommendation would be to read it yourself and find out about their stories. There are so many books out there which record the lives of the brave men of the Second World War, and not enough that bring to life the remarkable courage of the women who played an equally crucial role and who fought the evils of the Nazi regime in very real ways, saving the lives of thousands – sometimes at the cost of their own.
Women Heroes of World War II is available to buy or download at various online book retailers. For Amazon & Kindle click here.
Kathyrn J Atwood has also written a book about Women Heroes of the World War I (which I’m looking forward to reading next) you can find this and her other books here.