10 Fearless Female War Heroes You Didn’t Learn About in History Class

Nadezhda Popova http://rattlethepages.blogspot.com

War is often seen as something that women should be protected from. Men are often portrayed as stronger, braver, or more prepared to face the horrors of battle. And yet, when given the chance, women have shown time and time again that they can brave those dangers just as well as their male counterparts. These are the women who have become war heroes in their respective countries and around the world for their exploits during 20th century wars. Some became famous as martyrs to a cause, others for surviving impossible conditions, and still others for their complete selflessness in the face of death.

Nancy Wake

Nancy Wake was born on August 20, 1912 in New Zealand and she was raised in Australia. In the 1930s she moved to Paris to work as a journalist. She married Henri Edmond Fiocca in 1929, and the pair were living in Paris when the Germans invaded. When France fell to the Nazis, she started working as a courier for the French Resistance. Wake and her millionaire husband also began running a safe house out of their home. They would rescue downed pilots and give them new clothes and identification cards before finding them safe passage to back to Britain. It is believed that they saved 200 pilots this way.

Nancy Wake. Closeprotectionworld.com

The program became such a success that the Gestapo took notice and put a five-million-franc bounty on her head. At the time, they only knew her by the nickname “The White Mouse” because of her ability to evade capture. Between saving pilots and her other work with the French Resistance, Nancy Wake found herself on the top of the Gestapo’s Most Wanted List. In 1943 she was captured by the Gestapo and tortured for four days before she was released and made her way to London.

In London, she joined the Special Operations Executives, and in April 1944 she parachuted into Central France to once again fight for her beloved home. She joined a Marquis cell and quickly rose through the ranks. In two months she was a high-level officer, responsible for acquiring and distributing weapons and communications equipment for 7,000 men.

Throughout 1944 she worked on sabotage missions, including attacking the Gestapo headquarters and raiding trucks. When the war finally ended, she was the most decorated woman of the war. She ended up selling all the medals and living off the money she got from them, stating that she saw no point in keeping them. She lived to ripe old age of 98.

  • disqus_WuPzApr22D

    I would have enjoyed this article more if you had just listed the accomplishments of these women instead of dragging the male, female comparison into it. When will women be happy with who they are and what they accomplish without feeling the need to put men down in the process? That’s true liberation.

    • Rubberman99

      In those days, women were expected to stay home, make babies, cook dinner, and clean the house. The comparison of these heroines to their mail counterparts is apropos to show what they had to face to do what they did. I salute them all!

      • Rox Granger

        Strong counterpoint.

    • OverReader

      What male, female comparisons were dragged into the article? I read more than half of them (until stopped by some coupon ad) without finding any instances of male bashing. Maybe the introductory comments, but the articles about the women themselves were descriptions of their accomplishments. I’ll be you didn’t even read the article at all.

  • Ginger_Snaps

    Why isn’t Virginia Hall listed in this article?

    • Ketutar Jensen

      For the same reason hundreds of other women aren’t. They chose 10 women. It’s not to say others aren’t worth mentioning or were less heroic etc.

      • Ginger_Snaps

        Golly Gee, Ketutar, thanks bunches for that insight!

      • Rox Granger

        Well said.

  • Dawn Morris

    I say….Well done to you all! I wish more women stood up to do the same for their country….RIP everyone of you!

  • Busdriver Bill

    The tragedy (?) is that until around the mid twentieth century, women were considered less than equal by many if not most men – just because – and it had been the semi-accepted way to categorize them. It was a cultural model in most of the world – all because of the child-bearing thing – and their apparently weaker demeanor, I suppose. I’ve certainly found out through my relationships that they are much stronger than many men at bearing hardship, disappointment, deprivation, and sorrow (certainly pain). Bless their hearts – every man aught to have one in his life, as it is never complete without that other curly teardrop (yin/yang thingy). I’m so very proud of those who put up with me for so many years (my wife and daughters).

  • Busdriver Bill

    Well, Duh – where is the story about Julia Child? She and her husband were spies during WW2. Talk about unable to hide, she was so tall she overshadowed most men. Her story would have been good to read, here.