Chris's Reviews > Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue

Women Heroes of World War II by Kathryn J. Atwood
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Jan 26, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: feminist, history-wwii
Read from April 12 to 13, 2011 — I own a copy

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 hear you wonder. Well, yes and no. Everyone knows the story of Miep Gies, but Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl is pretty much the only piece of the rescuer story that is taught in schools. This book introduces the reader to more rescuers. Miep Gies is not mentioned, and this is not an oversight. It allows Atwood to focus on lesser known people.

Atwood's book is split into sections. There is a general introduction, overview really, followed by sections about Germany, Poland, France, Netherlands, Beligum, Britian, and the United States. Each section includes, in addition to the stories of the heroes, a general overview of the country during World War II, with particular focuses on the role of women. While not all encompassing, the women Atwood focuses on could easily be fit into all nationalities (Slovak, Irish, Indian) and cover all age groups and social classes. While younger women predominate, there are older ladies as well.

The importance of less known heroes is well established. The best known three, at least in general, would be Irene Sendler, Joesphine Baker, and Marlene Dietech. While it is true that all of the women mentioned appear in books (some of have written books), very few appear in books that are used in schools. Atwood's book is readily accessible to schools not only in it's layout but in the amount of infromation it has. It would be a good textbook, good because it is not dull and dry. This is important because of the use and popularity of Saving Private Ryan and HBO's World War II mini-series. Atwood's book gives female students that in, taking away the feeling of absence that can be felt by women watching World War II movies.

Equally important, and tied to the above point, is that in addition to spies and rescuers, Atwood includes protestors, a nurse, and a reporter. She presents heroes of different types. The inclusion of the German dissenters is important for this reason as well. Atwood has both tragic and happy ending stories, but all are inspiring. She gets full points for tastefully relating some of the harsher elements of the stories (the focus of the stories is the War experience, however, additional facts are provided).

The layout of the book is excellent. In additionally to the chapter introductions and wonderfully selected photographers, there are little boxes in each section, giving more detailing to terms, historical events, people, or speeches. At the end of each woman's chapter, Atwood provides a book that includes infromation for further reading on the woman. These are repeated in the book's biblography, with books for children (or accessible by children) starred.

Perhaps the book is too focused on the European theatre, though this allows for a larger variety of women and, perhaps, there will be a second volume about the Pacific (hint, hint). Perhaps an inclusion of Twenty Jataka Tales under Noor Khan's further reading book would have been nice. But these are very small quibbles.

This book is a must read for anyone interested in World War II and for any parent of a young girl.
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06/01/2016 marked as: read

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message 1: by Jeanette (new)

Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" "...and for any parent of a young girl."

And young boys, too. The one other GR friend of mine who has read and rated this 5 stars is an ll-year-old boy. :)


Chris Very cool!


Samantha Shank I agree!! It's nice to have a change from Miep Gies because some (Irena Sendler, my hero!!) deserve the same recognition.


Chris Right Anna! And it's not that I don't like or admire Gies, but I find myself wishing I had known about Corrie Ten Boom before going to the Netherlands so I could've gone to both the Frank house and the Boom house. I feel deprieved!


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