Women Warriors of the 20th Century
Women Warriors of the 19th Century <<

Women archers were allowed to compete in the Olympic games in 1904 and 1908
(source 'A Shot in Time')

Edith Garrud opened a dojo for jujutsu close to Oxford Circus.She trained a group of "fighting suffragettes", the bodyguard unit for Mrs Pankhurst.

Mme Arno organized a regiment of Parisian women to fight the Germans in 1915.

Helene Dutreux was the first of a number of women the French government officially permitted to become military pilots during WW I. 1914-1918

More than 200 women fought in the Polish legion in 1916, among them were Sophie Jowanowitsch and Stanislawa Ordynska.

Marie Marvingt served as an infantryman in the French Army in 1915 and then as a military pilot flying bomber missions. (see also Trailblazers - Early Women Aviators)

Countess Markievicz (Constance Georgina Gore-Booth) fought in the Easter Rising of 1916 in Ireland as well as the Civil War which followed the partition of Ireland. She was the MP for Dublin St. Patrick's from 1918 to 1922.

Flora Sanders, an Englishwoman in her forties fought in the trenches with the Serbian army during WW I. awarded Serbia's highest military decoration, the Kara George Star

Serbian peasant women were also fighting in the Serbian Army during WW1

The Turkish army at Gallipolli had women snipers.

Helen Ruz, a 19 year old corporal in the Voluntary Ukraine Legion, fought at the front in the Carpathian Mountains and during the Galcian campaigns. She won two medals WW1

Sophie Haletchko was a decorated sergeant major in the Ukranian cavalry. WW1

Zoya Smirnow was the only survivor of a group of 12 teenager girls who disguised themselves as boys and joined the Russian army. They fought in Galacia and the Carpathians. WW1

Most Russian Cossack regiments in WW I included a few women.

Olga Kokovtseva was a captain with the 6th regiment of the Ural Cossacks who fought in Serbia. She was wounded in two battles and received the St. George Cross.

Lieutenant Marie Baktscharow, led the first Russian women's battalion (of 250 women) in 1917.

A Russian womens batallion led by the much decorated Maria Botchkareva (Yashka), was dubbed the "Battalion of Death", Volkensteli and Ludmilla Kornilov served in its ranks.
(see also Women's Battalion of Death Bibliography and Women Soldiers and Female Battalions)

Princess Eugenie Shakhovskaya was the first woman to become a military pilot when she flew reconnaissance missions for the Russian Czar in 1914.
(see Women Military Pilots)

Princess Sophie Alexandrovna Dolgorunaya, who had obtained her pilot's license in 1914, volunteered for the Air Service in 1917 and flew missions with the 26th Corps Air Squadron.
(see Women Military Pilots)

The Indian National Army (INA) had an all women regiment called the Rani of Jhansi Regiment during WW2. They were involved in active combat in Burma.
(info provided by Tina R. Fox - see also an interview with Doctor/Colonel Lakshmi Sahgal)

David Truby, in "Women at War, A Deadly Species", quotes unnamed allied POW's repatirated in 1918 who reported seeing female soldiers in German machine gun crews toward the close of WW1.

Constance Markievicz, an Irish nationalist, founded a paramilitary order called the Fianna Eireann in 1909. She was a captain in the Easter Uprising of 1916
(see Patrick Pearse: Hero of 1916)

Britain had women in the Special Operations Forces (or SOE) working behind enemy lines during WW2. (see The Secret History of the SOE)

The Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) had 1,700 members at the outbreak of WW2 and 180,000 by 1943. In 1949 it became the Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF).

Collette Nirouet, disguised herself as a man and joined the French army. She was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre.

Elena Haas fought with the Czech Resistance in WW2

Janos Halasi fought with Hungarian freedom fighters in WW2

Maria Svobod also fought with the Hungarian resistance in WW2

Alma Allen, a Danish resistance fighter led men and women in WW2

Jackie Cochran (1906 -1980) and Nancy Harkness Love ( born on February 14, 1914) founded the US Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) during WW2.

During the Greek Civil War (1943-1947) at least 20% of all combat troops were women.

Anna Dosa commanded 33 Montagnands during the Greek Civil War (1943-1947)

Elaine Mordeaux, a French Resistance commander in WW2, led a unit of two hundred guerrillas, about a third of them were women.

Tito's Resistance Army in Yugoslavia included more than 100,000 women (partizanka) At least 2,000 women were promoted to officer ranks The first all woman partisan unit in Yugoslavia was formed in the Serbian village of Lika on August 25, 1942, 700 women volunteered for the 110 positions available.

Hanna Reitsch was a German test pilot during WW2. She the only woman ever to be awarded the Iron Cross and Luftwaffe Diamond Clasp.

Danisa Milosavljevic, Yugoslav partisan officer, commanded, both male and female troops in WW2.

Milka Kufrin, Yugoslav partisan in WW2

Bracha Fuld trained Jewish women soldiers, led her own platoons, captained military detachments and fought at the Battle of Sarona in Palestine during WW2.

Vitka Kempner and Ruzka Korczak were Jewish Resistance fighters in WW2.
(source Jewish Warriors)

Mira, Milica and Vera Kriuzman Yugoslav partisans in WW2.

17-year-old Emily Landau fought in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
(source Jewish Warriors)

Liza Ivanova organized and led a group of 68 men and women guerillas in Russia, 1941

Vera Krylova commanded an impromptu guerilla band of refugees in Russia. She was awarded the Order of the Red Banner and later fought with a battalion of ski troops

The Soviet Union drafted unmarried women in the later years of WW2

70% of the 800,000 Russian women who served in the Soviet army in WW2 fought at the front. One hundred thousand of them were decorated for defending their country.

Soviet Union had 1,000 women aviators were trained as fighter and military transport pilots, 30 of them were awarded the Gold Star of a Hero of the Soviet Union for their heroism in combat.

Ludmilla Pavlichenko was a Soviet army sniper in WW2.

Lance Corporal Maria Ivanova Morozova a sniper with the Soviet 62nd Rifle Battalion, won 11 combat decorations.

Maria Baide, a scout in the Crimea was awarded Russia's highest honor, Hero of the Soviet Union.

Alexandra Beikov and her husband Ivan bought their own tank so they could go into WW2 together. She was awarded the order of the Patriotic War.

Ursula Graham-Bower helped to persuade local tribespeople in Assam to act as intelligence scouts for the British Army. She led the unit for several years and had a captain's pay from the army.
(source - "War Behind Enemy Lines" - Julian Thompson - Pan - 0-330-36761)

Gertrud Scholz-Klink, a Nazi leader, formed battalions of women to carry on the final defense of Germany in the closing months of the war.

Israeli Army included 12,000 women were combatants in the 1948 War of Independence, Initially women were fully integrated into the Israeli army, they trained, fought and were billeted with men. Eventually political pressure led to the creation of segregated male and female units with the women's units assigned primarily to support functions. Those women who were already assigned to mixed-gender combat units remained with their units and continued to fight on the front lines. Although women were ordered out of the front lines by David Ben Gurion in 1950 there were numerous reports of Israeli women fighting in both 1956 and 1960 and reports of female commandos, including Lt. Yael Dayan, daughter of Moshe Dayan, fighting as late as 1966.
The Israeli Army did research into women's effectiveness as front line troops, and discovered that childless women were just as good or better than men, but that women who had children were significantly less effective because they were much more reluctant to kill people.

Bangladeshi women fought against a Pakistani invasion around 1970.
(source New Internationalist Magazine, March 2001)

Valentina Tereshkova (b.1937) was a Soviet cosmonaut and became the first woman in space (in 1963 aboard Vostok 6)

The US Navy included women pilots from 1973, the US Army included them from 1974 and the US Airforce included them from 1976.
(source Women Military Pilots)

The last surviving veteran of the female regiments of the Dahomey people in Africa died in 1979.
(source "Amazons of Black Sparta : The Women Warriors of Dahomey" - Stanley B. Alpern - New York Univ Pr - 0814706789)

Lieutenant Jennifer Daetz was the first woman to command a Royal Australian Navy (RAN) ship, the HMAS Shepparton in 1997 (source Australian Navy News Archives)

The Royal Air Force allowed women to pilot combat aircraft from 1989
(source - "The Scotsman" newspaper, 26/10/00)

The Royal Navy has allowed women to take jobs on fighting ships since 1990
(source - "The Scotsman" newspaper, 26/10/00)

Peshmerga Force for Women, a Kurdish guerrilla group in Northern Iraq, was founded in 1996
(source - "The Guardian" newspaper, 8/3/03)

In 1999 there were around 10,000 women in active combat units opposed to the regime in Iran
(source, Marie Claire magazine, UK edition, May 1999)

Women took part in the Eritrean war for independence from Ethiopia which ended in 1991
(source, New Internationalist, Jan-Feb 2000)

Rebel soldiers in Sierra Leone include many women (source, Channel 4 News, 10/9/00)

U.S.A.F. Lt. Col. Eileen Marie Collins was the first woman ever selected to be a space shuttle pilot and the first woman to command a space shuttle. In the Air Force she was a T-38 instructor pilot and a C-141 aircraft commander.
Other women astronauts include Dr Mae C. Jemison , Sally Ride and Dr. Kathy Sullivan .

Karen Rynn was the first woman to be commissioned into the Irish Army's Corps of Engineers. She took her oath of office as a Lieutenant in November 1999.
(source The Institution of Engineers of Ireland Journal - Dec 1999)

The naginata is a Japanese curved spear. Since the 15th Century it has been the traditional weapon of ladies of the bushi class. It is taught to girls in Japanese schools nowadays.

Cornell Women's Fencing is one of many women's fencing clubs.
Many historical re-enactment groups, including Lothene have women members taking part in battle recreations.
House Ironrose is a group of women fighters within the Society for Creative Anachronism
Links to pages for Women in the Martial Arts and Women in Martial Arts Webring.

Women's Writing on the First World War may also be of interest.

see also:
Women police ready to fight - BBC - 20th June 2003
First black woman joins horse guard - Guardian - 27th August 2003
Boxing future for Muslim women - BBC - 22nd January 2004
Delhi women enrol as bodyguards - BBC - 5th February 2004

Women Warriors of the 19th Century <<



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These pages are provided by Nicky Saunders of Lothene Experimental Archaeology