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On August 29, 1914, with World War I approaching the end of its first month, the Women’s Defense Relief Corps is formed in Britain.
Though women’s rights organizations in Britain had initially opposed the country’s entrance into the First World War, they reversed their position soon enough, recognizing the potential of the war effort to gain advancement for British women on the home front. As early as August 6, 1914, just one day after Britain declared war on Germany, an article published in the women’s suffrage newspaper Common Cause stated that: “In the midst of this time of terrible anxiety and grief, it is some little comfort to think that our large organization, which has been completely built up during past years to promote women’s suffrage, can be used to help our country through the period of strain and sorrow.”
In addition to the two nursing organizations that existed in 1914—the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) and the Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs)—several new women’s organizations sprung into being over the course of the war. Created with the support of the British secretary of state for war, Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener, the Women’s Defense Relief Corps came into being in late August 1914. The corps was made up of two divisions: a civil section, the goal of which was to substitute women for men in factories and other places of employment in order to free those men for military service; and a “semi-military” or “good citizen” section, where women were actively recruited for the armed forces. This latter group was trained in drilling, marching and the use of arms; its members were exhorted to protect not only themselves but their loved ones on the home front in case of possible invasion by the enemy.
Another organization founded during World War I was the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), created in July 1917. Members of the WAAC supported the war effort more directly, enlisting in the army to perform labors such as cookery, mechanical and clerical work and other miscellaneous tasks. For the first time, British women were sent to the battlefields of the Western Front to serve their country, thus freeing more male soldiers to do battle in the trenches against the German enemy. By the end of the war, some 80,000 women had served Britain as non-combatants, both on the home front and on the front lines in France and Belgium.
By 12 August 1914, Englishwoman Flora Sandes knew that if she wanted an exciting life, she would have to fight for it. That was the date she steamed out of London, along with 36 other eager nurses, bound for Serbia. Within 18 months, during the great retreat to Albania, she had exchanged bandages for guns. She insisted on acting as a soldier, and being treated as such therefore, like male combatants, she cared for the wounded, but only 'between shots'. She curtly informed one correspondent on 10 November 1916 that if people thought she ought to be a nurse instead of a soldier, they should be told that 'we have Red Cross men for first aid'. Her martial valour during World War One was recognised in June 1919 when a special Serbian Act of Parliament made her the first woman to be commissioned in the Serbian Army.
She insisted on acting as a soldier, and being treated as such.
This jolly, buxom daughter of a retired vicar living in the peaceful village of Thornton Heath in the Suffolk countryside was an unlikely candidate for the warrior role. Although she had been given elementary medical and military training in the Women's First Aid Yeomanry Corps and St John's Ambulance, she had no regrets about leaving nursing for the life of a combatant. Indeed, she relished those times when the savage explosion of her bombs was followed by a 'few groans and then silence' since a 'tremendous hullabaloo' signalled that she had inflicted 'only a few scratches, or the top of someone's finger. taken off'. Throughout her life, Sandes contended that her wartime experiences had been wonderful precisely because they were years of previously unimagined freedom.
Women at War: The Role of Women During WW2
With thousands of men away serving in the armed forces, British women took on a variety of new jobs during the First and Second World Wars.
Many of these roles had traditionally only been done by men and were thought unsuitable for women because they were dirty or difficult. But now, all over the country, women became train cleaners, bus conductors, volunteer policewomen they worked with dangerous chemicals in factories, drove tractors on farms and transported coal on barges.
Women&rsquos work would be vital to the British war effort in World War Two, so much so that it soon became compulsory (women had to do it by law). Early in 1941, Ernest Bevin, the Government Minister for Labour, declared that, 'one million wives' were 'wanted for war work'. Later that year, in December 1941, women began to be conscripted for war work, when Parliament passed the National Service Act.
All unmarried women aged 20-30, (later extended to 19-43), now had to either join the armed forces, work in a factory or work on the land with the Women's Land Army.
Women in the Armed Forces
During the Second World War, women served in the armed forces, including, for example:
The Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS)
The ATS was the women's branch of the British Army during World War Two (see the ATS recruitment poster above). Women between the ages of 17 and 43 could join and, although they were barred from serving in battle, they could take on other roles, such as cooks, storekeepers, orderlies, drivers and postal workers. Later in the war, when there was a shortage of men available to do some jobs, women in the ATS became radar operators and anti-aircraft gun crew members as well.
The Women&rsquos Royal Naval Service (WRNS)
At the start of the war, the women&rsquos arm of the Royal Navy was seen as a way of freeing men in non-combatant roles (like driving or cooking) to fight. 'Join the Wrens today and free a man to join the Fleet&rsquo, one recruitment poster urged. Nicknamed &lsquoWrens&rsquo, these women went on to do extremely important and varied work, from code-breaking at Bletchley Park to operating radar equipment.
Women also served with a range of other services
- as pilots and ground crew in the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA)
- in the Women&rsquos Auxiliary Service, as voluntary policewomen
- as military nurses or volunteer nurses (VADs) with the Voluntary Aid Detachment
- and even as spies with the Special Operations Executive (SOE)
- Why do you think women were banned from fighting?
- Some people did not approve of women working in WW2. What reasons might they have had for this?
- When conscription was first introduced, only unmarried women between the ages of 20 and 30 were called up.
- Why do you think this was?
- Do you think this was fair?
- How you think views of women workers changed during and after WW2?
- Do you have a female relative who worked in WW2?
- Are there still any jobs that women are banned from doing today?
- Research women in the British Armed Forces today:
- Are women allowed to serve in battle today?
- What sort of roles do women carry out in the modern armed forces?
- Are there any different rules for women in the British Army these days?
Look at modern recruitment posters aimed at women. Compare them to the ATS poster above and the WW2 recruitment posters on the Leeds University Wiki website (see link below).
- Analysing sources - ATS poster:
- How is the woman in the poster presented?
- Is she shown as a professional worker? If not, why not?
- What do you think of the work she is doing?
- To what extent could the poster be described as presenting traditional &lsquowomen&rsquos work&rsquo?
A woman medic at work © Anxiety for their menfolk in war, the pressures of employment, combined with the need to perform housework in straitened circumstances and the inadequacy of social services exacted a heavy toll. It also made the withdrawal of women back into their homes after the war less surprising. This return to full-time domesticity was not, however, wholly voluntary.
In many instances, contracts of employment during World War One had been based on collective agreements between trade unions and employers, which decreed that women would only be employed 'for the duration of the war'. Employed mothers were stung by the closure of day nurseries that had been vastly extended during the war. Reinforcing these pressures were the recriminatory voices of returning servicemen. As unemployment levels soared immediately after the war, anger towards women 'taking' jobs from men exploded.
As unemployment levels soared immediately after the war, anger towards women 'taking' jobs from men exploded.
Women were also divided, with single and widowed women claiming a prior right to employment over married women. For instance, Isobel M Pazzey of Woolwich reflected a widely-held view when she wrote to the Daily Herald in October 1919 declaring that 'No decent man would allow his wife to work, and no decent woman would do it if she knew the harm she was doing to the widows and single girls who are looking for work.' She directed: 'Put the married women out, send them home to clean their houses and look after the man they married and give a mother's care to their children. Give the single women and widows the work.'
In some occupations, single women insisted on excluding their married sisters. For instance, in 1921, female civil servants passed a resolution asking for the banning of married women from their jobs. The resulting ban was enforced until 1946. There were other setbacks. During World War One, hospitals had accepted female medical students: in the 1920s, women were rejected by the hospitals on the grounds of modesty. The National Association of Schoolmasters campaigned against the employment of female teachers. In 1924, the London County Council make its policy explicit when it changed the phrase 'shall resign on marriage' to 'the contract shall end on marriage'.
The presence of female soldiers in the Algerian army was of crucial importance during the Algerian revolution against colonial France some of the most prominent figures and symbols of the National Liberation Front were female combatants.
Fatima Zohra Ardjoune,  director general of the Ain Naâdja military hospital, was promoted to general, the first woman in the Algerian People's National Army (PNA)—and in the Arab world—to reach this rank. Three years later, Fatima Boudouani  became the second woman to be promoted to the rank of general in the PNA, and she was followed by three more women in 2015, therefore making Algeria the Arab country with the biggest number of high-ranking female army commanders.   Four generals were also promoted to the rank of major-general. 
Aardjoun's promotion reflects a growing trend of Algerian women taking more prominent positions in the workforce, most notably in the police and military. Algeria boasts the largest number of female police officers in the Muslim world. The status of women in the military had been made legally equal to that of men in an ordinance on February 28, 2006, and the military's promotions of women from 2009 to 2015 broke an apparent taboo. The army has since put in place a formal policy framework for equal opportunities, and efforts have been made to apply it. 
Since 2005, Bouteflika has been under pressure to enact more changes in favor of women's rights. 
Female soldiers in Eritrea played a large role in both the Eritrean civil war and the border dispute with Ethiopia, because they make up more than 30% of the Eritrean military. They also serve in direct combat operations. [ citation needed ]
Libya has female soldiers serving in the armed forces. Female conscription is also followed. A 200-strong unit was Muammar al-Gaddafi's personal bodyguard and is called variously the "Green Nuns" and the "Amazonian Guard", or more commonly in Libya, "The Revolutionary Nuns" (Arabic: الراهبات الثوريات ). 
South Africa Edit
South African women have a long history of service in the South African Defence Force (SADF) and in the modern South African National Defence Force (SANDF). In World War I and World War II women served in auxiliary roles in the South African Defence Force and were assigned to non-combat active roles after 1970. In 1914 a volunteer nursing service was established by the army and 328 nurses to serve with South African troops in Europe and East Africa in World War I. The Women's Auxiliary Army Service began accepting women recruits in 1916. Officials estimated that women volunteers relieved 12,000 men for combat in World War I by assuming clerical and other duties. During World War II, South Africa had five service organizations for women—the South African Military Nursing Service, and women's auxiliaries attached to the army, the navy, the air force, and the military police.
During the late 1970s and 1980s, women were active in civil defence organizations and were being trained as part of the country's general mobilization against possible terrorist attacks. In 1989, for example, the Johannesburg Civil Defence Program provided training for 800 civil defense volunteers, about one-half of whom were women. These classes included such subjects as weapons training for self-defense, antiriot procedures, traffic and crowd control, first aid, and fire-fighting. An unreported number of women also received instruction in counterinsurgency techniques and commando operations. Women also served in military elements of liberation militias in the 1970s and the 1980s, and women were accepted into the ANC's military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation, also known as Umkhonto—MK), throughout the anti-apartheid struggle.
In 1995 women of all races were being incorporated into the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), and a woman officer, Brigadier Jackie Sedibe, was appointed to oversee the implementation of new SANDF policies concerning the treatment of women. Women had been promoted as high as warrant officers and brigadiers in the Permanent Force by the early 1990s, but only ten women were SADF colonels in 1994. In 1996 Brigadier Sedibe became the first woman in the military to be promoted to the rank of major general. Widespread cultural attitudes in the 1990s still oppose the idea of women in combat, but officials are debating ways to assign women an equitable share of the leadership positions in the military.  In 2011 almost 26.6% of the uniformed services of the South African National Defence Force consisted of women. 
The Gambia Edit
The Gambia Armed Forces have no gender conscription and women are free to volunteer for the armed forces. In 2011 the first female army general was decorated in the Gambia. 
Mandatory Military Service is required for all Tunisian women since March 2003. Tunisia is the first Arab country to conscript women. [ citation needed ]
All roles in the Australian Defence Force are open to women. The first women became involved with the Australian armed forces with the creation of the Army Nursing Service in 1899. On the 30th of June 2017, women were found to make up 16.5% of the Australian Defence Force (with 20.6% in the Royal Australian Air Force, 20.4% in the Royal Australian Navy and 13.2% in the Australian Army).  However, up until 2016, only 74% of the total number of available roles in the Australian armed forces were available to women. Despite this, using 1998-99 figures, the ADF had the highest percentage of women in its employ in the world.  In 1998, Australia became the fourth nation in the world to allow women to serve on its submarines.
Australia was the fourth country to permit female crew on submarines, doing so in June 1998 on board Collins class submarines. Australia's first deployment of female sailors in a combat zone was aboard HMAS Westralia in the Persian Gulf during the 1991 Gulf War.
On 27 September 2011, Defence Minister Stephen Smith announced that women will be allowed to serve in frontline combat roles by 2016. 
In 1992, allegations of sexual harassment on board HMAS Swan were investigated, and in 1998 similar allegations arose in the Australian Defence Force Academy.
Bangladesh Army started recruiting female officers in non-medical roles in 2001. Female soldiers were inducted for the first time in 2013. 
The Indian Military Nursing Service was formed in 1888 when India was a part of Britain. Many nurses served in World War I and II where 350 Indian Army nurses either died or were taken prisoner of war or declared missing in action, this includes nurses who died when SS Kuala was sunk by Japanese bombers in 1942.  In 1992, the Indian Army began inducting women officers in non-medical roles.  On 19 January 2007, the United Nations first all female peacekeeping force made up of 105 Indian policewomen was deployed to Liberia.  In 2014, India's army had 3 per cent women, the Navy 2.8 per cent and the Air Force performed best with 8.5 per cent women.  In 2015 India opened new combat air force roles for women as fighter pilots, adding to their role as helicopter pilots in the Indian Air Force.  In 2020 The Supreme Court has lastly delivered the judgment in favor of the women officers. Similar opportunities to the women officers who fulfill the identical criteria as their male counterparts do in Indian Army. The judgment came on a nearly 10-year-old appeal, to grant SSC 
Some women served in various positions in the IDF, including infantry, radio operators and transport pilots in the 1948 war of independence and the Suez Crisis in 1956, but later the Air Force closed its ranks to female pilots, and women were restricted from combat positions. There is a draft of both men and women. Most women serve in non-combat positions, and are conscripted for two years (instead of three years for men). A landmark high court appeal in 1994 forced the Air Force to accept women air cadets. In 2001, Israel's first female combat pilot received her wings. In 1999 the Caracal company was formed, as a non segregated infantry company. In 2000 it was expanded into a Battalion (called The 33rd, for the 33 women killed in combat during the War of Independence) since then, further combat positions have opened to women, including Artillery, Field Intelligence, Search and Rescue, NBC, Border Patrol, K-9 Unit and anti-aircraft warfare.
On May 26, 2011, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz announced Brigadier General Orna Barbivay's appointment as the next Head of the IDF Personnel Directorate. Barbivay was promoted to major general, thus becoming the most senior female officer in the history of the IDF.
When the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF), postwar armed forces of Japan, was originally formed, women were recruited exclusively for the nursing services. Opportunities were expanded somewhat when women were permitted to join the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF army) communication service in 1967, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF navy) and Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF air force) communication services in 1974. By 1991, more than 6,000 women were in the JSDF, about 80% of service areas, except those requiring direct exposure to combat, were open to them. The National Defense Medical College graduated its first class with women in March 1991, and the National Defense Academy of Japan began admitting women in 1992. 
The first female in the JSDF to achieve star ranks (admiral and general) is Hikaru Saeki, who became JMSDF Rear Admiral on 27 March 2001.  She was followed by Michiko Kajita and Keiko Kashihara, who were promoted to JASDF Major Generals in 2007  and 2011 respectively. 
JMSDF Captain Ryoko Azuma became the first woman to command a warship division in March 2018. 
JASDF First Lieutenant Misa Matsushima became the first woman to qualify as a fighter pilot in August 2018. At that time, the total number of military women in Japan was 13.707, only a little less than 6% of the total force. 
Females are allowed to take combat roles in the Kazakh Armed Forces.
Policy and practice for women's participation in the Nepali Army is based on the national policy of gender equality and women empowerment. The Nepali Army has opened recruitment process for women since 1961.
Even though the concept of women soldiers is not new in the Nepali Army, it has never before reached the proportions of today. Women's participation in technical service in the Nepali Army also expanded continually as follows: Nurses (1961), Para folders (1965), Medical doctors (1969), Legal (1998), Engineering (2004) and Aviation (2011).
Among the officers of the Nepali Army, female officers in the general service is 173 while the technical officers counts to 203. Junior Commission, Non- Commission Female Officers and other ranks include 3217 in general service and 937 in technical service. Existing highest rank for women officers have been T/Brigadier General (3) in the technical service and Major (61) in the general service. 
New Zealand Edit
There are no restrictions on roles for women in the New Zealand Defence Force. They are able to serve in the Special Air Service  infantry, armour and artillery. (So far no woman has yet made it into the Special Air Service.) This came into effect in 2001 by subordinate legislation, with a report in 2005 finding that the move helped drive a societal shift that "values women as well as men" but that integration of women into combat roles "needed a deliberate and concerted effort". 
Women in the Pakistan Armed Forces are the female soldiers who serve in the Pakistan Armed Forces.  Pakistan is the only country in the Islamic world to have women appointed in the high ranking assignments and the general officer ranks,  as well as performing their military duties in the hostile and combat military operations.  Women have been taking part in Pakistan military since 1947 after the establishment of Pakistan, currently a strong sizable unit of women soldiers who are serving in the Pakistan Armed Forces.  In 2006, the first women fighter pilots batch joined the combat aerial mission command of Pakistan Air Force  and women in Pakistan Army have been trained in combat missions, particularly in sniper, airborne and infantry warfare. 
The Pakistan Navy is currently the only uniform service branch where women are restricted to serve in the combat missions especially in the submarine force command, rather they are appointed and served in the operation involving the military logistics, operational planning, staff development and the senior administrative offices, particularly in the regional and central headquarters. 
From 1993 onward, women served only in Women's Army Auxiliary Corps of Philippine military. In 1993, women were granted the right to serve as combat soldiers with the passage of Republic Act No. 7192 and the first batch started the training in the Philippine Military Academy in April that year.
Saudi Arabia Edit
Applications for certain non-combat roles were opened to women in February, 2018. 
Singapore allows women to serve in combat roles, although females are not conscripted.
Sri Lanka Edit
Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) was the first service of the Sri Lankan military to allow women to serve, accepting female recruits to the Sri Lanka Volunteer Air Force in 1972. The Sri Lanka Army followed in 1979 with the establishment of the Sri Lanka Army Women's Corps (SLAWC). Since then, each service has for both administrative and practical reasons maintained separate units for women. These are the SLAWC and the SLAF Women's Wing the Sri Lanka Navy does not have a specific name for women's units. In order to maintain discipline, all three services have women MPs attached to their respective military police/provost corps.
Currently, female personnel of all three services play an active part in ongoing operations. However, there are certain limitations in 'direct combat' duties such as special forces, pilot branch, naval fast attack squadrons. These are only a few restrictions female personnel have been tasked with many front line duties and attached to combat units such as paratroops, SLAF Regiment, as well as undertaken support services such as control tower operators, electronic warfare technicians, radio material teletypewriters, automotive mechanics, aviation supply personnel, cryptographers, doctors, combat medics, lawyers, engineers and aerial photographers. In the Sri Lanka Navy female personnel were at first limited to the medical branch, however currently both lady officers and female rates are able to join any branch of service including the executive branch. With the escalation of the Sri Lankan civil war, many female personnel have come under enemy fire both directly and indirectly thus taking many casualties including fatalities. As of 2008 there were three female officers of the rank of major general and one Commodore.
The Sri Lanka Civil Defence Force, formerly the Sri Lanka Home Guard, has been open to women recruits since 1988. In 1993, these guardswomen were issued firearms and deployed to protect their home towns and villages against attacks by LTTE. As a result, there have been many casualties (including fatalities) from attacks.
Taiwan (Republic of China) Edit
The Republic of China(Taiwan) began recruiting women in 1932 as intelligence officers and recruitment of military nurses and political warfare officers began in 1947 and 1951 respectively. In 1991, careers in other technical fields were opened to women while military academies started enrolling women in 1994. By 2006, women could volunteer for most enlisted and non-commissioned ranks and the quota has been increasing annually. Overall, women comprises around 15% of Taiwan(ROC)'s military. 
Thailand has recently begun recruiting and training women to conduct counter-insurgency operations (c. 2007).  A ranger commander said that when women are protesting, "It is better for women to do the talking. Male soldiers look tough and aggressive. When women go and talk, people tend to be more relaxed".
United Arab Emirates Edit
The UAE hosts the Gulf region's first military college for women, Khawla Bint Al Azwar Military Schoo and it has been open since 1991 under the late Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Females were granted the same training and responsibilities as their male counterparts, and also play a major role in humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping operations. Emirati women have reached senior ranks within the UAE Armed Forces, especially in the Air Force combat units. A great example of the achievements of Emirati women is Major Mariam al-Mansouri, The first female fighter pilot in the United Arab Emirates and the Arab World. She made international headlines for leading the UAE's mission to fight ISIS.   
In 2014, women were had the choice to be conscripted provided they have their parents’ consent. Military service is for 9 months and is optional for women aged 18 to 30 and is mandatory for men aged between 18 and 30 and is for 1 year. 
The number of women in the Bulgarian military has increased from 12% in 2010  to 20% in 2019.  Most women apply to join special forces units.  The law on Voluntary Military Service, for both sexes, was passed in 2020 the law allows every fit Bulgarian citizen under 40 to join the voluntary reserve military service for a 6 month period. 
Women were employed in the Danish armed forces as early as 1934 with the Ground Observer Corps, Danish Women's Army Corps and Naval Corps in 1946 and the Women's Air Force since 1953. In 1962, the Danish parliament passed laws allowing women to volunteer in the regular Danish armed forces as long as they did not serve in units experiencing direct combat. 1971 saw the enlistment of women as non-commissioned officers, with military academies allowing women in 1974.
In 1978, based on the reports of studies on the topic, women were allowed to enlist in an all areas of the Danish armed forces, with combat trials in the eighties exploring the capabilities of women in combat. In 1998, laws were passed allowing women to sample military life in the same way as conscripted men, however without being completely open to conscription. Since then females have served in infantry units in both Iraq and in combat in Afghanistan.  Women in the Danish military come under the command of the Chief of Defense.  As of January 2010, women make up 5% of the army, 6.9% of the navy, and 8.6% of air force personnel.
The Finnish Defense Forces does not conscript women. However, since 1995, women between 18 and 30 years of age have the possibility of voluntarily undertaking military service in the Defence Forces or in the Border Guard. Women generally serve under the same conditions as men.
The history of women in the Finnish military is, however, far longer than just since 1995. During the Finnish Civil War, the Reds had several Naiskaarti (Women's Guard) units made of voluntary 16- to 35-year-old women, who were given rudimentary military training. The reactions on women in military were ambivalent during the Civil War.
The non-combat duties in Finnish Defence Forces peace-keeping operations opened to women in 1991. Since 1995 the women are allowed to serve in all combat arms including front-line infantry and special forces both in Finland and in operations outside Finland.
In the 1800s, women in the French military were responsible for preparing meals for soldiers, and were called cantinières. They sold food to soldiers beyond that which was given to them as rations. Cantinières had commissions from the administrators of the regiments, and they were required to be married to a soldier of the regiment. They served near the front lines on active campaigns, and some served for as long as 30 years.  During the Wars of the French Revolution, some women enlisted in the army, mainly in support roles. Marie-Angélique Duchemin is the first woman with a recorded rank in the French Army, being promoted Corporal and Acting Sergeant in 1794. She was promoted 2nd Lieutenant on the retired list in 1815. Duchemin is the first woman decorated with the Legion of Honor, in 1851. 
The role of women in the French military grew in 1914 with the recruitment of women as medical personnel (Service de Santé des Armées). In 1939, they were authorized to enlist with the armed service branches, and in 1972 their status evolved to share the same ranks as those of men. Valérie André, a neurosurgeon, became the first woman in France to attain the rank of three-star general as Médecin Général Inspecteur. A veteran of the French Resistance, she served overseas in Indochina. During that period, she learned how to pilot a helicopter so that she could reach wounded soldiers who were trapped in the jungle. André is the first woman to have flown a helicopter in combat. She received many decorations for her achievements, including the highest rank of the Legion of Honour. She retired from active service in 1981.
Today women can serve in every position in the French military, including submarines  and combat infantry.  make up around 15% of all service personnel in the combined branches of the French military. They are 11% of the Army forces, 16% for the Navy, 28% of the Air Force and 58% of the Medical Corps. 
Currently, women are not allowed to serve in FFL.
Since the creation of the Bundeswehr in 1955, Germany had employed one of the most conservative gender-policies of any NATO country. [ citation needed ] That was generally regarded as a reaction to the deployment of young women at the end of World War II. Though women were exempt from direct combat functions in accordance with Nazi-ideology, several hundred thousand German women, along with young boys and sometimes girls (as Flakhelfer), served in Luftwaffe artillery units their flak shot down thousands of Allied warplanes. 
In the year 1975 the first female medical officers were appointed in the Sanitätsdienst of the Bundeswehr. Since 1994, two women, Verena von Weymarn and Erika Franke, attained the rank of Generalarzt. But it was not until January 2001 that women first joined German combat units, following a court ruling by the European Court of Justice.
There are no restrictions regarding the branch of service, and there are woman serving in the "Fallschirmjäger" and as Tornado fighter pilot.
In the Irish 1916 Rising, Cumann na mBan, the women's wing of the Irish Volunteers, fought alongside them in the streets of Dublin and in the General Post Office, the Irish Volunteers' HQ. Constance Markievicz, an Irish Revolutionary and suffragette, commanded male and female troops during the Rising.
The Defence (Amendment) (No. 2) Act, 1979, allowed women to join the Irish Defence Forces for the first time and was passed by the Oireachtas in 1979, making them the first European Armed Forces to allow women all roles in the military including combat roles, and even join the Irish Army Ranger Wing (Fianoglach), the Irish Special Forces, similar to the British SAS.  There are no restrictions for women to the "full range of operational and administrative duties."  As of January 2010 the number of women in the Permanent Defence Forces is 565, 5.7 percent of the total. 
During the short life of the fascist Italian Social Republic (World War II), the Female Volunteer Unit was introduced as an auxiliary service and they were known as Female Auxiliary Service (Italian: Servizio Ausiliario Femminile). The law that introduced this unit provided that its existence be limited to war periods.  Its equivalent in Southern Italy during World War II, was the CAF, Italian: Corpo di Assistenza Femminile, that was on the side of the Allies. This unit was also dismissed at the end of the war. Those who belonged to this unit were equivalent to sub-lieutenants and wore military uniforms made in Great Britain.  In 1959, the Female Police unit (Italian: Corpo di Polizia femminile) was established.
In 1981, Diadora Bussani was the first woman who asked to be admitted into the Naval Academy of Livorno (Italian: Accademia navale di Livorno). She was born in 1962 in Trieste and started her struggle to join the academy in 1981. After being excluded from the application, Italy's regional administrative court upheld the appeal however, Italy's State Council overturned the judgment. The enlisting of a woman seemed to be legally feasible because of Italian law Legge 1963 n. 66 which allowed the enrollment of women in public positions, but the State Council excluded the military because of biological differences between male and female human bodies. When she became famous and the case was well-known, the United States Navy symbolically granted her enlistment on 2 November 1982. 
Voluntary female military service was introduced in 1999 with the Italian law Legge 20 ottobre 1999 n. 380, which introduced the possibility of being admitted to the army for women.  Italy was the last country among NATO members to allow women to join the army. 
Nowadays women are present in all branches of Italian armed forces, including the police, and Guardia di Finanza, and they are also employed for military missions abroad.  Before the year 2000, women were employed in war only as voluntary nurses inside organizations Croce Rossa Italiana and Corpo delle infermiere volontarie dell'ACISMOM. 235º Reggimento fanteria "Piceno" is the training center for women inside the Italian army. 
Women in Norway have been able to fill military roles since 1938, and during the Second World War both enlisted women and female officers served in all branches of the military. However, in 1947 political changes commanded that women only serve in civilian posts, with reservists allowing women to join them in 1959. Female personnel currently make up around 12% of the armed forces (2017). 
Between 1977 and 1984, the Norwegian Parliament passed laws expanding the role of women in the Norwegian Armed Forces, and in 1985 equal opportunities legislation was applied to the military.
In 1995, Norway allowed women to serve on its military submarines, and to this date there has been at least one female commander of a Norwegian submarine.  The first was Solveig Krey in 1995. 
In 2015 conscription was extended to women making Norway the first NATO member and first European country to make national service compulsory for both men and women.  In 2014 Norway formed the Jegertroppen, an all-female special forces unit.
Women have taken part in the battles for independence against occupiers and invaders since at least the time of the Napoleonic Wars. During the occupation by the Nazis, 1939–1945, several thousand women took part in the resistance movement as members of the Home Army and the People's Army. The Germans were forced to establish special prisoner-of-war camps after the Warsaw Rising in 1944 to accommodate over a thousand women prisoners. 
In April 1938 the law requiring compulsory military service for men included provisions for voluntary service of women in auxiliary roles, in the medical services, in the anti-aircraft artillery and in communications. In 1939 a Women's Military Training Organization was established under the command of Maria Wittek.
In present Poland a law passed April 6, 2004 requires all women with college nursing or veterinary degrees to register for compulsory service. In addition it allows women to volunteer and serve as professional personnel in all services of the army. As of January 2020, there are 7465 female soldiers in active service.  Two active duty Polish women have achieved the rank of Colonel. Maria Wittek was the 1st Polish woman to reach the rank of General.  
During the First World War, heavy defeats led to the loss of millions of Russian Imperial soldiers. To psychologically energize morale Alexander Kerensky (leader of the Russian Provisional Government) ordered the creation of the Woman's Death Battalion in May 1917. After three months of fighting, the size of this all-female unit fell from 2,000 to 250.  In November 1917, the Bolsheviks dissolved the unit. Shortly after Russia became part of the Soviet Union (see above for the role of woman in the Soviet Armed Forces) until December 1991.
The current tally of women in the Russian Army stands at around 115,000 to 160,000, representing 10% of Russia's military strength.
Although the Serbian armed forces were traditionally exclusively male (with exception of nurses and some other non-combat roles) there were some exceptions. Several women are known to have fought in the ranks in the Balkan Wars and the First World War, often by initially hiding their gender to work around the draft regulations. The most notable of them was Milunka Savić, the most decorated female combatant in history. In the Second World War Yugoslav partisan units accepted female volunteers as combatants as well as medical personnel. After the war the practice was abandoned, but was reintroduced recently with professionalisation of the army.
In the Military Articles of 1621, which organized the Swedish army, military men on all levels were explicitly allowed to bring their wives with them to war, as the wives were regarded to fill an important role as sutlers in the house hold organisation of the army: prostitutes, however, were banned.  This regulation was kept until the Military Article of 1798, though the presence of women diminished after the end of the Great Northern War.  In the Military Article of 1798, the only women allowed to accompany the army was the professional unmarried female sutlers, in Sweden named marketenterska.  Unofficially, however, there were females who served in the army posing as male the entire period, the most famous being Ulrika Eleonora Stålhammar. 
In 1924, the Swedish Women's Voluntary Defence Organization ("Lottorna") was founded: it is an auxiliary defense organization of the Home Guard, a part of the Swedish Armed Forces. 
Since 1989 there are no gender restrictions in the Swedish military on access to military training or positions. They are allowed to serve in all parts of the military and in all positions, including combat. 
In 2010, Sweden abolished male-only conscription and replaced it with a gender-neutral system. Simultaneously, the conscription system was however deactivated, only to be reactivated in 2017. Hence, beginning in 2018 both women and men are obliged to do military service. 
In 2018, female personnel made up 15% of the soldiers in training and less than 7% of the professional military officers. 
When Turkish history is examined, it is apparent that Turkish women have voluntarily taken tasks in the defence of their country, showing the same power and courage as men. Nene Hatun, whose monument has been erected in the city of Erzurum (Eastern Turkey) because of her gallant bravery during the Ottoman-Russian War, constitutes a very good example of this fact. Besides providing nursery services, women also took main roles in combat in WWI.  Furthermore, the Independence War has taken its place in history with the unsurpassed heroism of Turkish women.  Sabiha Gökçen was the first female combat pilot in the world, as well as the first Turkish female aviator. She was one of the eight adoptive children of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Throughout her career in the Turkish Air Force, Gökçen flew 22 different types of aircraft for more than 8,000 hours, 32 hours of which were active combat and bombardment missions. She was selected as the only female pilot for the poster of "20 Greatest Aviators in History" published by the United States Air Force in 1996. 
Women personnel are being employed as officers in the Turkish Armed Forces today. The women officers serve together with the men under the same respective chains of command. The personnel policy regarding women in the Turkish Armed Forces is based on the principle of "needing qualified women officers in suitable branches and ranks" to keep pace with technological advancements in the 21st century. Women civilian personnel have been assigned to the headquarters staff, technical fields, and social services without sexual discrimination. Women officers serve in all branches except armor, infantry, and submarines. Assignments, promotions and training are considered on an equal basis with no gender bias. 
As of the year 2005, the number of the female officers and NCOs in the Turkish Armed Forces is 1245. 
Women (on active duty) make almost 13% of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (18,000 persons)  7% of those are officers.  This number is close to NATO armies' statistics. Ukraine shows better results in military gender equality than countries like Norway (7%) or United Kingdom (9%). There are few female high officers, 2.9% (1,202 women),  with a dozen female colonels as of 2010  and the first female general appointed in October 2018.  Also in 2018, Ukraine adopted a law that gives military women equal rights with men. 
Contractual military service counts for almost 44% of women.  However, this is closely linked to the low salary of such positions: men refuse to serve in these conditions when women accept them.   In total about 25 percent of Ukraine's 200,000 military personnel are women. 
Servicewomen live in woman-only apartments near the military bases.  A female officer can take three years’ maternity leave without losing her position. 
United Kingdom Edit
Women were first employed by the Royal Navy in 1696 when a handful were employed as nurses and laundresses on hospital ships.  They received pay equal to an able seaman.  The practice was always controversial and over the next two centuries, first the nurses and then the laundresses were removed from service.  By the start of the 19th century both roles had been eliminated. 
Female service in the Royal Navy restarted 1884 when the Naval Nursing Service was formed. It became the Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service in 1902 and is still in operation. Women have had active roles in the British Army since 1902, when the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps was founded. The Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service was formed in 1918. During the Second World War, about 600,000 women served in the three British women's auxiliary services: the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, and the Women's Royal Naval Service, as well as the nursing corps.  In 1917, the Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps was formed 47,000 women served until it was disbanded in 1921. The Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS) was formed in 1917 as well. Before it disbanded in 1919, it provided catering and administrative support, communications and electrician personnel.
In 1938, the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) was created, with 20,000 women serving in non-combat roles during World War II, including as military police. They also performed a combat role on British soil, as anti-aircraft gunners against the Luftwaffe.
In 1949, women were officially recognized as a permanent part of the British Armed Forces, although full combat roles were still restricted to men. In this year, the Women's Royal Army Corps was created to replace the ATS, and in 1950 the ranks were normalised with the ranks of men serving in the British Army. From 1949 to 1992, thousands of women served in the WRAC and sister institutions. 
Women first became eligible to pilot Royal Air Force combat aircraft in 1989. [ citation needed ] The following year, they were permitted to serve on Royal Navy warships. [ citation needed ] Since 1990, women have successfully served as Royal Navy clearance divers.   The 1991 Gulf War marked the first deployment of British women in combat operations since 1945. As of 2010, female personnel made up around 9% of the British armed forces. 
The seizure of Royal Navy sailor Faye Turney in 2007 by the naval forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard led to some media comment on the role of women and mothers in the armed forces. 
In December 2015, it was announced that women would be permitted to begin training in autumn 2016 in order to enter all roles by the end of that year.  In 2016 a ban on women serving in close combat roles was lifted by Prime Minister David Cameron.  In 2017 the Royal Air Force's ground-fighting force became open to women for the first time, making the RAF the first branch of the forces to open every role to female service personnel.  In 2018, women became eligible to apply for all roles in the British forces. 
During the First World War, over 2,300 women served overseas in the Canadian Army Medical Corps. During the Second World War, 5,000 women of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps again served overseas, however they were not permitted to serve on combat warships or in combat teams. The Canadian Army Women's Corps was created during the Second World War, as was the Royal Canadian Air Force (Women's Division). As well, 45,000 women served as support staff in every theatre of the conflict, driving heavy equipment, rigging parachutes, and performing clerical work, telephone operation, laundry duties and cooking. Some 5,000 women performed similar occupations during Canada's part in the Korean War of 1950–1953.
In 1965 the Canadian government decided to allow a maximum of 1,500 women to serve directly in all three branches of its armed forces, and the former "women's services" were disbanded. In 1970 the government created a set of rules for the armed forces designed to encourage equal opportunities. In 1974 the first woman, Major Wendy Clay, earned her pilot's wings in the newly integrated Canadian Forces.
Between 1979 and 1985 the role of women expanded further, with military colleges allowing women to enroll. In 1982 laws were passed ending all discrimination in employment, and combat related roles in the Canadian armed forces were opened for women, with the exception of the submarine service. In 1986 further laws were created to the same effect. The following years saw Canada's first female infantry soldier, and a female Brigadier-General.
In 1989, a tribunal appointed under the Canadian Human Rights Act ordered full integration of women in the Canadian Armed Forces "with all due speed", at least within the next ten years. Only submarines were to remain closed to women.  Women were permitted to serve on board Canadian submarines in 2002 with the acquisition of the Victoria-class submarine. Master Seaman Colleen Beattie became the first female submariner in 2003.
Canadian women have also commanded large infantry units and Canadian warships. Commander Josée Kurtz is the first woman appointed to command a major warship – HMCS Halifax. 
On May 17, 2006 Captain Nichola Goddard became the first Canadian woman killed in combat during operations in Afghanistan.
United States Edit
A few women fought in the American Army in the American Revolutionary War while disguised as men.  Deborah Sampson fought until her sex was discovered and she was discharged, and Sally St. Clare died in the war.   Anna Maria Lane joined her husband in the Army, and by the time of the Battle of Germantown, she was wearing men's clothes.  According to the Virginia General Assembly, "in the revolutionary war, in the garb, and with the courage of a soldier, [Lane] performed extraordinary military services, and received a severe wound at the battle of Germantown." 
The number of women soldiers in the American Civil War is estimated at between 400 and 750, although an accurate count is impossible because the women again had to disguise themselves as men. 
The United States established the Army Nurse Corps as a permanent part of the Army in 1901 the Corps was all-female until 1955.  
During World War I, 21,498 U.S. Army nurses (American military nurses were all women then) served in military hospitals in the United States and overseas. Many of these women were positioned near to battlefields, and they tended to over a million soldiers who had been wounded or were unwell. [ citation needed ] 272 U.S. Army nurses died of disease (mainly tuberculosis, influenza, and pneumonia).  Eighteen African-American Army nurses served stateside caring for German prisoners of war (POWs) and African-American soldiers. They were assigned to Camp Grant, IL, and Camp Sherman, OH, and lived in segregated quarters.    Hello Girls was the colloquial name for American female switchboard operators in World War I, formally known as the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit. During World War I, these switchboard operators were sworn into the Army Signal Corps. [ citation needed ] This corps was formed in 1917 from a call by General John J. Pershing to improve the worsening state of communications on the Western front. Applicants for the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit had to be bilingual in English and French to ensure that orders would be heard by anyone. Over 7,000 women applied, but only 450 women were accepted. Many of these women were former switchboard operators or employees at telecommunications companies. [ citation needed ] Despite the fact that they wore Army Uniforms and were subject to Army Regulations (and Chief Operator Grace Banker received the Distinguished Service Medal),  they were not given honorable discharges but were considered "civilians" employed by the military, because Army Regulations specified the male gender. Not until 1978, the 60th anniversary of the end of World War I, did Congress approve veteran status and honorable discharges for the remaining women who had served in the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit.  The first American women enlisted into the regular armed forces were 13,000 women admitted into active duty in the U.S. Navy during the war. They served stateside in jobs and received the same benefits and responsibilities as men, including identical pay (US$28.75 per month), and were treated as veterans after the war. The U.S. Marine Corps enlisted 305 female Marine Reservists (F) to "free men to fight" by filling positions such as clerks and telephone operators on the home front. In 1918 during the war, twin sisters Genevieve and Lucille Baker transferred from the Naval Coastal Defense Reserve and became the first uniformed women to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard.     Before the war ended, several more women joined them, all of them serving in the Coast Guard at Coast Guard Headquarters.  These women were demobilized when hostilities ceased, and aside from the Nurse Corps the uniformed military became once again exclusively male. In 1942, women were brought into the military again, largely following the British model.  
The Woman's Army Auxiliary Corps, the women's branch of the United States Army, was established in the United States on 15 May 1942 by Public Law 554, and converted to full status as the WAC on 1 July 1943. The Woman's Naval Reserve was also created during World War II. In 1944 women from the Women's Army Corps (WACs) arrived in the Pacific and landed in Normandy on D-Day. During the war, 67 Army nurses and 16 Navy nurses were captured and spent three years as Japanese prisoners of war. There were 350,000 American women who served during World War II and 16 were killed in action in total, they gained over 1,500 medals, citations, and commendations. Additionally, by the end of WW II, Women Ordnance Workers (WOWs) accounted for approximately 85,000 of all civilian employees, working for the Ordnance Corps.  Ordnance soldiers and civilians worked across the globe, ranging from Iceland, Iran, the Pacific Islands, Africa, and Europe, to the Middle East.
Virginia Hall, serving with the Office of Strategic Services, received the second-highest US combat award, the Distinguished Service Cross, for action behind enemy lines in France. Hall, who had one artificial leg, landed clandestinely in occupied territory aboard a British Motor Torpedo Boat.
Law 625, The Women's Armed Services Act of 1948, was signed by President Truman, allowing women to serve in the armed forces in fully integrated units during peacetime, with only the WAC remaining a separate female unit. The WAC as a branch was disbanded in 1978. Women serving as WACs at that time converted in branch to whichever Military Occupational Specialty they worked in.
U.S. servicewomen who had joined the Reserves following World War II were involuntarily recalled to active duty during the Korean War. More than 500 Army nurses served in the combat zone and many more were assigned to large hospitals in Japan during the war. One Army nurse (Major Genevieve Smith) died in a plane crash en route to Korea on July 27, 1950, shortly after hostilities begin. Navy nurses served on hospital ships in the Korean theater of war as well as at Navy hospitals stateside. Eleven Navy nurses died en route to Korea when their plane crashed in the Marshall Islands. Air Force nurses served stateside, in Japan, and as flight nurses in the Korean theater during the conflict. Three Air Force nurses were killed in plane crashes while on duty. Many other servicewomen were assigned to duty in the theater of operations in Japan and Okinawa.  
Records regarding American women serving in the Vietnam War are vague. However, it is recorded that 600 women served in the country as part of the Air Force, along with 500 members of the WAC, and over 6,000 medical personnel and support staff.
Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677 (1973), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case  which decided that benefits given by the United States military to the family of service members cannot be given out differently because of sex.
In 1974, the first six women aviators earned their wings as Navy pilots. The Congressionally mandated prohibition on women in combat places limitations on the pilots' advancement,  but at least two retired as captains. 
In 1976 the United States Air Force Academy, United States Coast Guard Academy, United States Military Academy and the United States Naval Academy became coeducational.  The United States Air Force then eliminated the Women in the Air Force program with women more fully integrated with men in the service it was considered unnecessary. 
On December 20, 1989, Captain Linda L. Bray, 29, became the first woman to command American soldiers in battle, during the invasion of Panama. She was assigned to lead a force of 30 men and women military police officers to capture a kennel holding guard dogs that was defended by elements of the Panamanian Defense Forces.
The 1991 Persian Gulf War proved to be the pivotal time for the role of women in the United States Armed Forces to come to the attention of the world media. Over 40,000 women served in almost every role the armed forces had to offer. However, while many came under fire, they were not permitted to participate in deliberate ground engagements. Despite this, there are many reports of women engaging enemy forces during the conflict. 
The 1996 case United States v. Virginia, in which the Supreme Court ordered that the Virginia Military Institute allow women to register as cadets, gave women soldiers a weapon against laws which (quoting Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg) “[deny] to women, simply because they are women, full citizenship stature—equal opportunity to aspire, achieve, participate in and contribute to society”. 
Women in the U. S. military served in the Iraq War from 2003 until 2011.  During this war, U.S. Army reservists Lynndie England, Megan Ambuhl, and Sabrina Harman were convicted by court martial of cruelty and maltreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. Also, Leigh Ann Hester received the Silver Star for her heroic actions on 20 March 2005 during an enemy ambush on a supply convoy near the town of Salman Pak, Iraq.  This made her the first female U.S. Army soldier to receive the Silver Star since World War II and the first ever to be cited for valor in close quarters combat. 
In 2008, Ann Dunwoody became a four-star general in the Army, making her the first woman in U.S. military and uniformed service history to achieve a four-star officer rank. 
As of 2010, the majority of women in the U.S. army served in administrative roles. 
In 2011, Major General Margaret H. Woodward commanded Operation Odyssey Dawn's air component in Libya, making her the first woman to command a U.S. combat air campaign. 
The Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 directed the Department of Defense (DoD) to review the laws, policies and regulations restricting the service of female service members. As a result, DoD submitted the Review of Laws, Policies and Regulations Restricting the Service of Female members in the U.S. Armed Forces, popularly known as the "Women in Service Review", to Congress in February 2012.  According to the review, DoD intended to eliminate co-location exclusion (opening over 13,000 Army positions to women) grant exceptions to policy to assign women in open occupations to direct ground combat units at the battalion level assess the suitability and relevance of direct ground combat unit assignment prohibition to inform future policy based on the results of these exceptions to policy and further develop gender-neutral physical standards for closed specialties. 
In 2012, Janet C. Wolfenbarger became the first female four-star general in the Air Force. 
Michelle J. Howard began her assignment as the U.S. Navy's first female (and first African-American female) four-star admiral on July 1, 2014.  
In December 2015, Defense Secretary Ash Carter stated that starting in 2016 all combat jobs would open to women.  In March 2016, Ash Carter approved final plans from military service branches and the U.S. Special Operations Command to open all combat jobs to women, and authorized the military to begin integrating female combat soldiers "right away." 
In 2017, the first woman graduated from the infantry officer course of the Marine Corps her name was not made public. 
In 2019 the United States Space Force was established as the sixth armed service branch of the United States,  and Nina M. Armagno became the first female general in the United States Space Force in 2020. 
Women in the U. S. military currently serve in the Afghanistan War that began in 2001, and the American-led intervention in Iraq that began in 2014.   During the Afghanistan War, American soldier Monica Lin Brown, was presented the Silver Star for shielding wounded soldiers with her body, and then treating life-threatening injuries. 
During Independence wars, bolivian Juana Azurduy was the first woman to receive rank, uniforme and wage and to fully participate in combate around 1816. The Argentine Army first authorized women in their ranks in 1997, the Air Force in 2001 and the Argentine Navy in 2002.  Since then, they were deployed in peacekeeping missions to Cyprus and Haiti.
The first female Argentine Air Force combat pilot graduated in 2005. 
The Bolivian Air Force's first female military pilot completed her solo-flight in August 2015.  On 9 March 2015 Gina Reque Teran became the first female army general in Bolivia and the first female general in South America to command combat troops. 
The first participation of a woman in combat occurred in 1823. Maria Quitéria de Jesus fought for the maintenance of the independence of Brazil, and is considered the first woman to enlist in a military unit. However, only in 1943, during World War II, women officially entered the Brazilian Army. They were sent 73 nurses, 67 of them registered nurses and six air transport specialists. They served in four different hospitals in the US Army, all volunteered for the mission and were the first women to join the active service of the Brazilian armed forces. After the war, as well as the rest of the FEB, the nurses, most have been awarded, they won the official patent and licensed the active military service.
Joanna Herrera Cortez became the first female Colombian fighter pilot in 2004. She also became a lieutenant and put in charge of 99 men.
We asked you on Facebook and Twitter what we’d missed from the list. Here’s how you voted …
The Cranes Are Flying (1957)
- (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1957)
- Odette (Herbert Wilcox, 1950)
- Black Book (Paul Verhoeven, 2006)
- The Marriage of Maria Braun (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1979)
- Waterloo Bridge (James Whale, 1931)
- Sophie’s Choice (Alan J. Pakula, 1982)
- Two Women (Vittorio De Sica, 1960)
- Les Femmes de l’ombre (Jean-Paul Salomé, 2008)
- Plenty (Fred Schepisi, 1985)
- Wings (Larisa Shepitko, 1966)
Your suggestions for films about women in wartime dug deep into film history, bringing to light films of various different nationalities and eras. The clear favourite was 1957 Soviet film The Cranes Are Flying, the tragic story of two lovers torn apart by the beginning of the Second World War. Mikhail Kalatozov’s won the Palme d’or at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival and has been called “the first indisputable masterpiece of post-Stalin cinema.”
How Many Women Served in World War II?
Figures for each branch of the American military are:
- Army - 140,000
- Navy - 100,000
- Marines - 23,000
- Coast Guard - 13,000
- Air Force - 1,000
- Army and Navy Nurse Corps - 74,000
More than 1,000 women served as pilots associated with the US Air Force in the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) but were considered civil service workers, and weren't recognized for their military service until the 1970s. Britain and the Soviet Union also used significant numbers of women pilots to support their air forces.
Women and the War Effort
World War I was the first war in which American women were recruited to serve in the military. Women were already present in France as members of the American Red Cross and as canteen workers, but for the most part, French and Belgian women staffed American military offices. In October 1917 the new American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) telephone system was put in place, but the American soldiers and the French women working as telephone operators were unable to communicate. The need for bilingual telephone operators precipitated the recruitment of American women.
When General Pershing, commander in chief of the American Expeditionary Forces, mounted an advertising campaign for bilingual telephone operators for the Army Signal Corps, more than seven thousand women responded and more than two hundred were recruited. These Bell Telephone System operators, known as "Hello Girls," worked in France from March 1918 to the end of the war. The Stars and Stripes reported their activities in several articles, announcing their arrival with the headline "Uncle Sam Presents 'Hello, Girls!'" (March 29, 1918, p. 1, col. 3)* and describing their work in the article "Six Hello Girls Help First Army" (October 4, 1918, p. 6, col. 2).
Women also served a symbolic function for the fighting men. Women were the subjects of sentimental poetry poems to sweethearts at home or to French mademoiselles appeared in several issues. The protection of women was held up as an honorable justification for the war. An article entitled "German Brands Young Mother with an Iron" that appeared in the first issue of The Stars and Stripes typifies the manner in which sentimental and protective feelings towards "womanhood" were aroused to encourage the soldiers to fight: "It is in accordance with other stories of the prostitution of womanhood which the Kaiser is forcing in order to repopulate the German Empire. The rapid British advance at Cambria, in November, when towns which the Germans had occupied for three years were captured before the latter could deport the civilian population into Germany as is their custom, disclosed the latest effort of the German army. French women and girls had been made the victims."
The article then quoted an American officer: "Among the refugees who passed along the roads making their way southward farther into France after we made our first big advance were scores of women and girls, each marked on her breast by a cross in red paint. . . . the cross indicated that German soldiers were the fathers. The crosses had been painted on them, the women explained, to show that their children would belong to the German Government. . . . Thank God, America, by coming into the war, will help to stamp out this beastly 'kultur' from the world and make it a safe, clean place to live in for your womenfolk and mine?-our mothers, our sweethearts, our wives, and our daughters" (February 8, 1918, p. 3, col. 1).
In keeping with the concept of honoring womanhood, The Stars and Stripes encouraged the doughboys to write letters home to "Mom." In support of their intensive Mother's Day campaigns, the newspaper published heart-wrenching cartoons depicting a forlorn mother waiting for the postman or tearfully reading her son's letter. Editorials and headlines touted the millions of letters sent back home by dutiful soldiers. The newspaper also promoted the War Orphans Project, in which companies and officers "adopted" French war orphans by pledging to provide them with financial support. Articles promoting the effort were often accompanied by images of little girls and descriptions of the orphans' plight.
*Unless otherwise noted all references are to The Stars and Stripes.
Constance Goodridge Mark (Connie Mark)
Constance Goodridge Mark, nee Mcdonald, was another example of displayed loyalty typical of Caribbean women in WW2, wanting to serve Britain in it’s hour of need.
Born in Kingston Jamaica. She joined the British Army in 1943, serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, The Womens royal Army Corps working She later became the Senior Medical Secretary in the Royal Army Medical corps, Where she served for 10 years, working in the North Caribbean.
Many years later she took part in the “Their Past your Future” Campaign run by the Imperial War Museum.
Connie had felt that the contribution of ‘West Indians’ in WW2 was being ignored.She decided to do something to try to educate people about the contributions of Black people in the Second World War. Recounting a story about an Age Concern Meeting, she had taken some photographs of West Indian ex-servicewomen.
(function() Women have always worked outside the home but never before in the numbers or with the same impact as they did in World War II. Prior to the war, most of the women that did work were from the lower working classes and many of these were minorities. There were a variety of attitudes towards women in the work force. Some thought they should only have jobs that men didnt want while others felt women should give up their jobs so unemployed men could have a job, especially during the Great Depression. Still others held the view that women from the middle class or above should never lower themselves to go to work. These and other viewpoints would be challenged with the United States entry into World War II. With men off to fight a worldwide war across the Atlantic and the Pacific, women were called to take their place on the production line. The War Manpower Commission, a Federal Agency established to increase the manufacture of war materials, had the task of recruiting women into employment vital to the war effort. Mens attitude towards women in the work force was one challenge to overcome but, surprisingly, womens own ideas about work outside the home had to change as well. Two of the primary sources below deal with arguments to challenge these attitudes. A number of cities across the nation had a positive economic effect because of the demand for manufactured war materials. In Alabama no city felt a greater impact than did Mobile. An estimated ninety-thousand workers swarmed into the city to work in the local war factories, especially in one of the two shipyards (Gulf Shipbuilding and Alabama Dry Dock and Shipbuilding) or in the ALCOA factory. The ALCOA plant alone would produce 34% of the nations aluminum, a metal necessary for the production of airplanes. Men still worked at these plants, but without the women, these plants would have never been as productive or as successful as they ultimately were. After the war, most women returned home, let go from their jobs. Their jobs, again, belonged to men. However, there were lasting effects. Women had proven that they could do the job and within a few decades, women in the workforce became a common sight. An immediate effect is often overlooked. These women had saved much of their wages since there was little to buy during the war. It was this money that helped serve as a down payment for a new home and helped launch the prosperity of the 1950s.
Women in the Work Force during World War II
Women have always worked outside the home but never before in the numbers or with the same impact as they did in World War II. Prior to the war, most of the women that did work were from the lower working classes and many of these were minorities. There were a variety of attitudes towards women in the work force. Some thought they should only have jobs that men didnt want while others felt women should give up their jobs so unemployed men could have a job, especially during the Great Depression. Still others held the view that women from the middle class or above should never lower themselves to go to work. These and other viewpoints would be challenged with the United States entry into World War II.
With men off to fight a worldwide war across the Atlantic and the Pacific, women were called to take their place on the production line. The War Manpower Commission, a Federal Agency established to increase the manufacture of war materials, had the task of recruiting women into employment vital to the war effort. Mens attitude towards women in the work force was one challenge to overcome but, surprisingly, womens own ideas about work outside the home had to change as well. Two of the primary sources below deal with arguments to challenge these attitudes.
A number of cities across the nation had a positive economic effect because of the demand for manufactured war materials. In Alabama no city felt a greater impact than did Mobile. An estimated ninety-thousand workers swarmed into the city to work in the local war factories, especially in one of the two shipyards (Gulf Shipbuilding and Alabama Dry Dock and Shipbuilding) or in the ALCOA factory. The ALCOA plant alone would produce 34% of the nations aluminum, a metal necessary for the production of airplanes. Men still worked at these plants, but without the women, these plants would have never been as productive or as successful as they ultimately were.
After the war, most women returned home, let go from their jobs. Their jobs, again, belonged to men. However, there were lasting effects. Women had proven that they could do the job and within a few decades, women in the workforce became a common sight. An immediate effect is often overlooked. These women had saved much of their wages since there was little to buy during the war. It was this money that helped serve as a down payment for a new home and helped launch the prosperity of the 1950s.