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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Women Heroes of World War I

Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics

Review of Women Heroes of World War I by Katheryn J. Atwood

Overview from In time for the 2014 centennial of the start of the Great War, this book brings to life the brave and often surprising exploits of 16 fascinating women from around the world who served their countries at a time when most of them didn’t even have the right to vote. Readers meet 17-year-old Frenchwoman Emilienne Moreau, who assisted the Allies as a guide and set up a first-aid post in her home to attend to the wounded; Russian peasant Maria Bochkareva, who joined the Imperial Russian Army by securing the personal permission of Tsar Nicholas II, was twice wounded in battle and decorated for bravery, and created and led the all-women combat unit the “Women’s Battalion of Death” on the eastern front; and American journalist Madeleine Zabriskie Doty, who risked her life to travel twice to Germany during the war in order to report back the truth, whatever the cost. These and other suspense-filled stories of brave girls and women are told through the use of engaging narrative, dialogue, direct quotes, and document and diary excerpts to lend authenticity and immediacy. Introductory material opens each section to provide solid historical context, and each profile includes informative sidebars and “Learn More” lists of relevant books and websites, making this a fabulous resource for students, teachers, parents, libraries, and homeschoolers.

My Review:

This week I am stepping away from fiction entirely and towards the world of nonfiction. Kathryn contacted me through Twitter offering me a copy of this book to review. I thought it might be fun for a change of pace.

Also I love History and I hope you do also. And this is a part of History that I knew nothing about. Could there really be that many heroic women involved in the First World War? Apparently so.

This was not a short book either. There were more names than I ever could have imagined. These heroes came from all walks of life: spies, nurses, soldiers and journalists. But the soldiers were by far the most surprising. I had no idea than any woman had ever served as a soldier during this war.

And the book was not written in an academic tone either. I think it was a young adult book yet the details seemed well-researched and pertinent.

These women had done some incredible things and were motivated by incredible ideas. Many of them did fight or work due to their own patriotism but just as many seemed to also fight for the love of a man, either a brother, father, husband, son, or even a lover.

At the same time there were the sad stories of some of the Russian women who fought. I think at least one of them was only fighting because the war had killed her whole family and she had nowhere else to go. It seemed sad but her contribution to the war effort was not.

The other thing that amazed me was the photos that the author managed to scrounge up along with the lists for further reading. And many of the women had written their own stories down which Atwood also lists. I am not sure if all of them were in English though so who knows if you could actually read them.

The best thing about the book was the way it gave you some background into why and how this war started. I knew about the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand but I never really understand how this ever translated into a large scale war like this one. That is until I read the author’s background into the war. Without it, I think it would be hard for readers to really appreciate who these women were and what they did.

I recommend this to all but especially to those who want to know more about this war and why any woman would want to get involved in it.


  1. I'm fond of History too and want to know more about these remarkable women you wrote about in this interesting review. The book is now on my list.

  2. Thanks for the comment Michelle. I am glad you liked it.