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Category: World War II
  • Dr. Kazue Togasaki became one of the first Japanese American women to earn a medical degree in the US.

    In the midst of World War II, as many people of Japanese ancestry were incarcerated in internment camps, a pioneering doctor helped ensure that pregnant women got the best care she could provide. Dr. Kazue Togasaki fought sexism and racism to become one of the first Japanese American women to earn a medical degree in the US. Over the course of her remarkable career, she delivered over 10,000 babies, including 50 during one month at the Tanforan Assembly Center. "In other camps, I know they’d send the pregnant women out to the nearest county hospital to deliver, but I never thought about sending them out from Tanforan," she recalled years later. "I thought it was my duty." Continue reading Continue reading

  • With a one million franc bounty on her head, Witherington presided over the surrender of more than 18,000 German troops.

    On the night of September 22, 1943, a 29-year-old British Special Operations Executive agent parachuted into occupied France. It sounds like the beginning of a spy movie, but it’s actually the real-life story of Pearl Witherington, one of World War II’s little-known female heroes! Witherington led a network of thousands of French Maquis resistance fighters in battle against the Nazis, and even presided over the surrender of 18,000 German troops at the end of the war. Continue reading Continue reading

  • 16 Trailblazing Female Wartime Heroes Who Belong in the History Books

    women-in-wartime-blog-websiteOften, the popular image of women in wartime is worried wives, girlfriends, sisters, and daughters, pining at home for the men they love who are risking their lives on the battlefield. The reality, though, is much different! Women have always made significant contributions to war efforts — both on the homefront and on the front lines. While women's contributions at home, especially during WWII, have become more widely known, the stories of their heroism on the battlefield are rarely told. In every war there have been women who dared to spy across enemy lines; treat wounded soldiers in the midst of the fighting; report from the front as journalists, and fight shoulder to shoulder with their male peers. And although we don't hear of them often, women also fought for an equally important cause: peace. Continue reading Continue reading

  • Through years of starvation, illness, and fear, the women continued to work together as a nursing unit, caring for thousands of people imprisoned with them.

    In 1942, 77 American Army and Navy nurses were captured by the Japanese, marking the beginning of what would become one of the greatest, yet little known, stories of heroism and sacrifice during World War II. Incredibly, every single woman survived three long years of starvation, illness, and fear as prisoners of war, all while continuing to work as a nursing unit, providing medical care to the thousands of people imprisoned alongside them. "They were a tough bunch. They had a mission," says Lieutenant Colonel Nancy Cantrell, an historian with the Army Nurse Corps. "They were surviving for the boys… and each other. That does give you a bit of added strength." Continue reading Continue reading

  • The best biographies, memoirs, and historical fiction for adults about heroic women of World War II.

    Women have always served their countries in many ways during wartime, but the sheer scope of World War II demanded more of them than ever — and they answered the call. Around the world, women served as military nurses, pilots, resistance fighters, codebreakers, spies, and in other roles. For decades, their stories were little known. Sometimes, details were classified so women couldn't tell anyone, even their families, about the work they had done during the war. Other times, they hesitated to share their experiences, often because they humbly believed that their contributions were "ordinary." And, in some cases, their work was left out of histories because society did not recognize that women could be veterans, and that an Army nurse or a WASP pilot or an SOE spy deserved just as much celebration for her heroism as any soldier. Continue reading Continue reading

  • "Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?"

    "Laws change. Conscience doesn't." — Sophie Scholl

    When Sophie Scholl was born to a German family in Forchtenberg on May 9, 1921, nobody could have expected that she would give her life at age 21 for her anti-Nazi resistance work. Scholl was a key member of the White Rose, a student resistance group in Munich, and remains one of Germany's great dissenting heroes of the World War II. Despite that, few people outside of Germany know of her name or of the courage that allowed her to face death rather than give up her belief in what was right.

    Today, we're sharing Sophie's story, as well as a selection of books for readers of all ages that explore her heroic story, the White Rose, and her impact on history in more depth. Her bravery and sacrifice is a powerful reminder of the importance of standing up against injustice, hatred, and tyranny, even at great personal cost. Continue reading Continue reading

  • A Mighty Girl's top picks of books about the Holocaust for children and teens in recognition of Holocaust Remembrance Week.

    “Silence helps the oppressors.” — Leslie Meisels, Hungarian Holocaust survivor

    Each year during Holocaust Remembrance Week, we take time to remember those who died — and those who survived — during the infamous Nazi regime. It is a difficult topic for any of us, but particularly difficult to discuss with children. How do you talk about something so beyond most children’s contemplation in a way that respects the experience of those who lived it? Continue reading Continue reading

  • Corrie ten Boom and her family helped 800 people fleeing the Nazis by hiding them in their home.

    In the midst of the Nazi occupation of Holland, an unassuming woman — the country's first female watchmaker — had a secret: a hidden room where Jewish refugees could stay as they fled the dangerous regime. Corrie ten Boom and her family worked with the Dutch Resistance, and their home became known as "De Schuilplaats" or "The Hiding Place," where hundreds of people found shelter in 1943 and 1944. Today, it's estimated that ten Boom, her family, and other members of the 'BeJe group' saved the lives of 800 Jews and other refugees. Ten Boom's father and sister both died while imprisoned by the Nazis, but despite it all, she never regretted what her family had done: "The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration," she asserted, "but its donation." Continue reading Continue reading

  • The 23-year-old secret agent hid her codes in knitting to avoid detection by the Nazis.

    In May 1944, a 23-year-old British secret agent named Phyllis Latour Doyle parachuted into occupied Normandy to gather intelligence on Nazi positions in preparation for D-Day. As an agent for the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), Doyle – who is celebrating her 99th birthday this week – secretly relayed 135 coded messages to the British military before France's liberation in August. She took advantage of the fact that the Nazi occupiers and their French collaborators were generally less suspicious of women, using the knitting she carried as a way to hide her codes. For seventy years, Doyle's contributions to the war effort were largely unheralded, but she was finally given her due in 2014 when she was awarded France's highest honor, the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. Continue reading Continue reading

  • Virginia Hall was one of the greatest spies of World War II but her incredible story is largely unknown today.

    The Nazis considered Virginia Hall the "most dangerous of all Allied spies," yet the story of the "Limping Lady" is largely unknown today. Hall spent nearly the entire war in France, first as a spy for Britain's newly formed Special Operations Executive (SOE) and later for the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Special Operations Branch. Even her cumbersome wooden prosthetic leg, which she nicknamed Cuthbert, proved no obstacle to Hall's courage and determination to defeat the Nazis. While undercover in France, she proved exceptionally adept at eluding the Gestapo as she organized resistance groups, masterminded jailbreaks for captured agents, mapped drop zones, reported on German troop movements, set up safe houses, and rescued escaped POWs and downed Allied pilots. Even years after the war, however, she rarely talked about her extraordinary career; a reticence she likely developed during her years as a spy since, as she once observed, "Many of my friends were killed for talking too much." Continue reading Continue reading

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