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Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue (Women of Action)

by
4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  817 Ratings  ·  191 Reviews
A 2012 VOYANonfiction Honor List selection



Noor Inayat Khan was the first female radio operator sent into occupied France and transferred crucial messages. Johtje Vos, a Dutch housewife, hid Jews in her home and repeatedly outsmarted the Gestapo. Law student Hannie Schaft became involved in the most dangerous resistance work--sabotage, weapons transference, and assassinatio
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Hardcover, 272 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Chicago Review Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Kathryn At the time I was writing the book I couldn't locate two full-length English-language biographies/memoirs on Soviet WWII women and I had to include at…moreAt the time I was writing the book I couldn't locate two full-length English-language biographies/memoirs on Soviet WWII women and I had to include at least two per section. So I was limited to mentioning them in the general introduction.

I've since purchased two biographies on female Soviet pilots -- one of them published a month after my book's deadline -- and am hoping to include a Soviet Union section if WHofWWII gets a second edition. This will be difficult to manage as it will mean a larger word count for my publisher but I'm hoping we can work something out.

In the meantime, check out my book on WWI heroines: there are two Russian women featured there, one of them the formidable Maria Bochkareva and her Battalion of Death. Inspiring story! Thanks for your interest!

(less)
Kathryn Jean, there were thousands of heroic WWII women not mentioned in my book. I wasn’t attempting an exhaustive, encyclopedic study but something that…moreJean, there were thousands of heroic WWII women not mentioned in my book. I wasn’t attempting an exhaustive, encyclopedic study but something that might spark teen interest in the role of women who put their lives on the line during the war. The contextualizing introductions in question--few of which mention individual women at any length--were written with a mind towards clarity and concision: clarity for the sake of my intended readership and concision for my publisher’s word count limit.

And not to take anything away from the notable Joan Clarke, but I was more impressed with the sheer number of women who worked at Bletchley Park than with any one individual. If you were Clarke’s fan prior the release of The Imitation Game, you must be glad her story has finally hit the big screen.

Regarding your second question: I realized early on in the project that in order to convey to young readers the sheer number of women with key roles--as well as do their stories justice--I had to limit the scope of the book. Adding a few Pacific war heroines wouldn’t have sufficiently covered that topic and would have forced me to further reduce the details of the book’s European heroines. There were only so many pages the publisher was willing to print.

A more informed question would be why I omitted Soviet women. I’ll answer that when asked. :)

If I may, I’d like to address some additional quibbles mentioned in your negative review. Why no Spaniards? Spain was Fascist but officially neutral during WWII. Why no Italians? I couldn’t locate enough source material on individual female Italian resisters to meet the standards I’d set for my narrative chapters.

Cheers,
Kathryn Atwood(less)

Community Reviews

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Pamela
Five SUPERB stars!!!

A high-praise salute to the many women HEROES of World War Two; housewives, students, shopkeepers, starlets, journalists - women from every walk of life who put aside personal safety to fight against tyranny and Jewish persecution in every capacity imaginable.

Kathryn J. Atwood's meticulous research and respectfully straightforward writing might be geared to a young-adult audience, but it's really superbly suited for any reader desiring a brief summation of the European thea
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Chris
Jun 28, 2011 Chris rated it it was amazing
Disclaimer: Kathryn Atwood is a Goodreads friend. I've never met her in real life, and I brought this book. But she is a Goodreads Friend (was before this book was published). Just so you know.


Billed as a young adult history book, Atwood's Women Heroes of World War II can easily be read by people of all ages. This is great because it is a book that helps to fill two large gaps in World War II history.

The first gap is that of the helpers or rescuers of Jews in World War II. This is a gap, I can h
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James L.
Nov 19, 2013 James L. rated it it was amazing
I went into Kathryn Atwood’s Women Heroes of World War II hoping the experience would leave me with the same fascination I experienced after watching HBO’s excellent series Band of Brothers. While the book does deliver in that regard, in some ways I feel like I got so much more.

Atwood paints vivid stills of her twenty-six heroines, offering up generally their most significant wartime contributions as well as fascinating peeks into each woman’s personality. Perhaps my favorite profile is that of
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Ed
Mar 12, 2011 Ed rated it it was amazing
I found this a marvelous source of really gripping narratives about the women who resisted the Nazis. It leaves me profoundly heartened by the ability of the 26 women included to do life saving good in the face of such profound evil. It is the latter that I find so hard to understand, especially what might be called creative evil: going out of one's way to do harm to others. These women coped with that without despair and lived and died saving others.

The book has great photos of the heroes and a
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Alex Baugh
Sep 28, 2011 Alex Baugh rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-war-2
In Women Heroes of World War II, Kathryn Atwood has written a very moving account of 26 strong, courageous women who stood up to the Nazi scourge at great risk to their own lives. Some joined underground resistance movements in Nazi-occupied countries, others rescued Jews and Allied soldiers caught behind enemy lines or worked as spies, mingling with the enemy to gather useful information. And all of their stories are amazing.


In Poland, 19-year-old Irene Gut worked for a high ranking German off
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Kayla
Jul 20, 2015 Kayla rated it really liked it
For those of you who, like me, struggle to get through non-fiction, this may be the book for you. It's classified as young adult non-fiction, which just means that you aren't overwhelmed with information. While some of the stories may have benefitted from a bit more detail, this book does its job well: it introduces you to many heroic women who did resistance work in World War II. It's meant to get you interested in these women, and provides resources for you to learn more about them. I liked th ...more
Rupert Colley
Jan 10, 2012 Rupert Colley rated it it was amazing
No one knows how they will react in a situation of utmost peril. Fortunately, for most of us, we will never have to face that ultimate test of one's deepest resolve. None of the 26 heroines in Kathryn Attwood's new book, Women Heroes of World War Two, thought of themselves as heroes but their actions beggar belief. For the greater good they defied or tried to defy the evils of Nazism, each trying in her own, individual way to throw a small spanner into the giant machine that was Hitler's Germany ...more
Veronica
Apr 23, 2015 Veronica rated it it was amazing
“Women Heroes of WWII,” is a collection of 26 stories, each containing a tale of an inspiring woman or girl who lived and breathed during WWII. From the four corners of the world, you learn about strong individuals who did what they could to make a difference in the dark world they were living in.

Some rescued Jews, others wrote illegal pamphlets, some were spies, some lived to tell their stories and some died for what they believed in. From all walks of life, from various backgrounds, different
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Kathy
Feb 23, 2015 Kathy rated it really liked it
For years I have been disappointed that there was a recognition lacking for women who have fought for their countries. The overall worldwide view (excluding some countries who include both men and women in their military) has been that women should not be exposed to the horrors of war and combat.

But many have been in combat and have served in different ways. Now we see women in front-line combat. And at last the recognition, at least in the US, that women who fight and die should be acknowledge
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Doreen
Apr 22, 2012 Doreen rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all women, students, people interested in covert activities in WWII
Recommended to Doreen by: it was on a Goodreads List
I would love to see this book used in classrooms. It does read like a textbook...a very, well-written one! The stories for each hero are concise and delivered in a direct, explanatory manner. In my opinion, this is how history should be taught in our schools; in a way that is informative and understandable for students. It's a great introduction for twelve or thirteen year olds, to be exposed to non-military efforts against the Nazi's in WWII. For those in high school, the short biographies can ...more
Pat
Feb 07, 2013 Pat rated it it was amazing

As a World War II history buff, I was intrigued to find a book that centers on the role of women. These "26 Stories of espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue" do not disappoint. Atwood details the heroic exploits of women from all over Europe: Germany, Poland, France, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, and Great Britain, as well as the United States. Whether famous entertainers like Josephine Baker and Marlene Dietrich or simply ordinary wives, students, teachers, these women step up to take their
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Sesana
Apr 24, 2016 Sesana rated it it was amazing
This is the sort of book that you'd have to try really hard to screw up. The basic facts of these women's lives are so riveting on their own that you'd have to be a poor writer indeed to make it anything less than fascinating. Atwood is not a poor writer, and I think she did her best to present the best, most succinct, and most exciting accounts of each woman with an allowance of slightly less than ten pages per woman. I was actually most impressed with her selection. Yes, there should have been ...more
Kaethe
Mar 27, 2013 Kaethe marked it as abandoned
This isn't a book that lends itself to sitting down and reading straight through. The individual stories start to seem too similar: clever girls, touched by the plight of others, finding a way to hide or briefly shelter Jews on an underground railroad, finding their strength in their faith. With Schindler's List you get more ambiguity, more real personality. While it would be useful to find a few pointers that would show us all how to remain moral in a horrifying world, these stories are too abb ...more
Robert
Jun 18, 2015 Robert rated it it was amazing
Women Heroes of World War II tells 26 different stories of women involved in espionage, sabotage, resistance, and rescue before and during World War II. These women came from all different socioeconomic backgrounds, ages, and countries but each of them were fluent in the language of doing the right thing. Their stories are often the definition of bravery as they all put their lives on the line countless times in order to defeat the Axis Powers. Some of them even made the ultimate sacrifice in th ...more
Michelle
Jun 19, 2015 Michelle rated it really liked it
This book is best read with your teens or pre-teens aloud. There are real stories of courage, patriotism, and honor within these pages. Since it is organized first by geography, then person-by-person accounts, a few pages at a time can be read and discussed. Questions such as: What made this person brave? What things could have limited her or kept her from serving but that she did not allow to keep her from accomplishing her goals? How did her contributions, whether great or seemingly small, hel ...more
Rick Roche
Apr 01, 2011 Rick Roche rated it really liked it
In her new collective biography, Kathryn Atwood recounts the heroic actions of women in the European theater of battle of World War II. Each quick-reading story profiles a woman who decided that surviving the war was insufficient and that active opposition to Nazi troops and agents was necessary to overthrow the menace of Hitler's regime. Some wrote and distributed anti-Nazi literature, others sheltered Jews and Allied soldiers, and still others became spies and saboteurs. All endangered their o ...more
Joanne Silver
Jun 27, 2011 Joanne Silver rated it it was amazing
As a specialist on rescue and resistance during World War II, I was impressed and enthralled with Kathryn Atwood's Women Heroes of WWII. Each well-constructed story, with historical background and unique elements of surprise, oppression, outraged reaction, and closure, carries its own weight as truth gathered from first-person testimony. Her detailed accounts of no less than 26 courageous women from various Nazi-Occupied countries raise burning questions in the reader's mind: How many other unsu ...more
Therese
Dec 11, 2012 Therese rated it it was amazing
Thank you to the Author, Kathryn Atwood, for sending our school a copy of her book!! Not finished yet but want to say it is excellent, I especially like the links to websites she includes on the end page of the biographies so you can find out more about these courageous and selfless women.

This is a well-researched and presented book, detailing war experiences in lives that history generally tends to exclude or trivialize. Of especial note is the age of some of these "women"; so many of them were
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Karine
Apr 06, 2015 Karine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
bought for my daughter after seeing Imitation Game and having a WW II discussion including the changing role of women. I was curious so I read a few pages...and couldn't put it down. Yes, it's written for a younger audience, but it's well written. There is just enough information on each spotlighted woman for it to be fascinating, and each written snapshot has both pictures and resources for further reading. It is NOT full of happy endings...but intriguing nevertheless.
Annabel
Apr 05, 2013 Annabel rated it it was amazing
The strength of the Nazi regime was in essence based on fear and mistrust among the people. But not everyone allowed that fear to predominate. A number of people in the occupied areas had the courage to turn themselves against the Nazis, either individually or by joining a group. They offered resistance in several manners, by distributing illegal leaflets, rescuing Jews, sabotage, or passing on information to the allies. Work that was certainly not without danger, it required guts. Most of the m ...more
Laura
Jan 20, 2015 Laura rated it it was amazing
This book highlights 26 women (many very young) who saw evil and chose to bravely fight for the Allied cause during WWII. Some were journalists, some were spies--some were assassins. While I've already read about Irene Gut and Corrie ten Boom, the rest were new to me (and have given me a whole bunch of new books to read).

Wonderful book for young readers that I will definitely purchase. I can't wait for my girls to be old enough to read these stories of strong, brave, and often very spiritual wom
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Masanobu
I read this in March to celebrate Women's History Month, but real life and my own laziness have delayed this review. World War II is a topic that I never get tired of exploring, so this title instantly caught my eye when I saw it on my library's WHM display. I've read quite a bit about the role of women on the Home Front, but was completely clueless about their role on the actual frontline. Women Heroes of World War II filled that gap nicely.

This short non-fiction book is divided in sections, gr
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Lois
Apr 26, 2011 Lois rated it it was amazing
As Georges Loustaunau-Lacau, owner of the magazine L’ordre national remarked to Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, when asking her to organize a massive French spy network that later came to be known as Noah’s Ark, “Who will ever suspect a woman?” In fact, such underestimation of women’s ability helped to bring down the Nazi regime, as, especially at the start of World War II, the fascist supremacists overlooked what damage women could cause to their overwhelming militaristic might. That women made a maj ...more
Naomi Wilcox-Lee
Sep 28, 2015 Naomi Wilcox-Lee rated it it was amazing
Shelves: women-s-history
I have just finished Women Heroes of World War II, a fantastic book which traverses the global scene of the Second World War and tells the stories of 26 courageous women who risked their lives to help others.

The book takes us on a geographical tour through many of the countries which were involved in the war, across Europe and to the United States. An excellent introduction to each country's situation is given at the start of every chapter. I learnt so much from these overviews. Having studied W
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Joan Reeves
Nov 24, 2012 Joan Reeves rated it it was amazing
Every Woman Needs To Read This Book

Today I'm reviewing a book that left me choked with awe, sadness, admiration, and gratitude. I urge you to read Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue by Kathryn J. Atwood.

About The Book

The stories of these women who stood up for right against tyranny are organized by country. Young girls, teenagers, and women risked their lives to fight the Nazis in World War II. In everything they did, they knew that their live
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Natalie
Oct 18, 2011 Natalie rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful book.

In it Kathryn J. Atwood describes the lives and doings of "ordinary" women in extraordinary times. During WWII they did not let the patriarchal society send them back to their kitchens, whilst their brothers, husbands or fathers fought for their freedom. They simply (in their eyes) went out to do, what is self-evident for us today. To be aloud to fight for what we believe in and love. In the best possible way we can.

Some with wits, some with brilliant minds and deductions
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Ellen
Terrific stories and resource for girls (and boys) looking for heroic role models. Many stories are told of male triumphs in the face of adversity during wars but here are 26 stories about women from an assortment of European countries and the US who in WWII did their very best to help stave off the horror of fighting Hitler's armies and defying his Aryan policies. They do humanity proud despite some who would say that they just had to do what they did, that it cannot be construed as heroic and ...more
Christine
Feb 21, 2014 Christine rated it really liked it
I recieved a signed copy of this from a Goodread giveaway. (Thank you Katherine for sending it all the way to the UK for me!)
I was immediately pleased when I opened the book, to find that it was split into sections focusing on different countries. Every country has a different history and experience of WWII so I was glad to see that this book gives a broad spread of stories. Each chapter starts with a very useful and informative introduction to the role the particular country had in the war, and
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Nancy
Jul 10, 2015 Nancy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book! I learned many things that I never knew from these women from World War 2. I checked this out because I wanted to learn about the girl called the White Rose, Sophie Scholl. In the process I learned about 25 other unknown (to me) women. Okay 24, I knew about Corrie ten Boom! Refreshingly, brave women...
Sophie Scholl : the White Rose -- Maria von Maltzan : the countess who hid Jews -- Irene Gut : "only a young girl" -- Irena Sendler : life in a jar -- Stefania Podgorska : the teen
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Kate
What a great book!

Kathryn Atwood's Women Heroes of World War II tells the stories of 26 spies, resisters, rescuers, nurses and performers and celebrates the role that women from all over Europe and America played in the defeat of the Third Reich. Atwood brings these womens' stories to life by providing tales of their bravery and intelligence but also putting their work in the greater context of the war. The book is aimed at younger readers but there is much for older readers here too, and Atwoo
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“A film based on the relationship between Maria and Hans, called Versteckt (Hidden), was filmed in Berlin in 1984. In 1986, Maria published her autobiography, Schlage die trommel und fürchte dich nicht (Beat the Drums and Be Without Fright).” 1 likes
“The Beje is now a museum (above an actual watch shop), and visitors can see the secret room where the ten Booms once hid Jews.” 1 likes
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