Women Heroes of World War II

Title:                      Women Heroes of World War II

Author:                  Kathryn J. Atwood

Atwood, Kathryn J. (2011). Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories Of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, And Rescue. Chicago: Chicago Review Press

LCCN:    2010041830

D810.W7 A85 2011


  • These twenty-six suspense-filled stories unfold from across Germany, Poland, Great Britain, the United States, and more, providing an inspiring reminder of women and girls’ refusal to sit on the sidelines around the world and throughout history.


  • Sophie Scholl : the White Rose — Maria von Maltzan : the countess who hid Jews — Irene Gut : “only a young girl” — Irena Sendler : life in a jar — Stefania Podgorska : the teen who hid thirteen — Marie-Madeleine Fourcade : “only a woman” — Andrée Virot : Agent Rose — Josephine Baker : spy singer — Magda Trocmé : wife, mother, teacher, rescuer — Diet Eman : courier for the Dutch resistance — Hannie Schaft : the symbol of the resistance — Johtje Vos : a group effort — Corrie ten Boom : watchmaker, rescuer, reconciler — Andrée de Jongh : the comet line — Hortense Daman : partisan courier — Fernande Keufgens : the teen with the bold voice — Monica Wichfeld : heroine of the Danish resistance — Ebba Lund : the girl with the red cap — Noor Inayat Khan : royal spy — Nancy Wake : the white mouse — Pearl Witherington : the courier who became a leader — Virginia Hall : the greatest American spy — Muriel Phillips : U.S. Army nurse — Marlene Dietrich : “the only important thing” — Maria Gulovich : Slovak for the OSS — Martha Gellhorn : war correspondent.


Date Posted:      November 8, 2016

Reviewed in Sheroes of History[1]

I was lucky enough to be contacted by Kathryn J Atwood, author of several books about the extraordinary lives of women during the First and 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 patronizing. 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 organized 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

[1] Sheroes of History, Downloaded November 8, 2016

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