- Virginia Johnson
For women caught in war zones, there are choices to be made. Try to get by as best you can, protecting your family if you have one, or throw in with the men defending your country, risking your own life. The 15 women whose stories are told in Women Heroes of World War II, the Pacific Theater all made difficult choices. Even so, as much as they were able, they resisted the invaders who overran their countries.
Claire Phillips was a cabaret singer who passed vital information to the resistance. Sybil Kathigasu was a nurse who patched up the resistance fighters before being captured herself. Maria Rosa Henson was a very young teenager who, like so many others, was picked to be a “comfort woman” to enemy troops. Not unlike today’s victims of sex trafficking, she was viewed by her captors as just a supply to meet a demand. But she survived and ultimately was able to help others tell their stories.
Because the incidents described (though not in sensational detail) are wrenching, Kathryn J. Atwood’s history is recommended for adults and teenagers 14 and up. Its true stories of inspiring women do not always end happily, but that is the nature of war.
Besides the stories themselves, the book includes short, well-written summaries of important moments in history to place the narratives in context, as well as a discussion guide. Women Heroes of World War II is an excellent choice for mature history students who want in-depth information on how World War II affected women in particular, and the lengths some of them would go to as they resisted their countries’ subjugation. The 15 women profiled are of different nationalities and met different fates, but all lived brave lives.
Author Kathryn J. Atwood has written two other excellent books that look at women’s history in wartime: Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics and Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue. She also edited the young adult autobiography Code Name Pauline: Memoirs of a World War II Special Agent.