Review: Women Heroes of World War I by Kathryn J. Atwood

Having read and reviewed Kathryn J. Atwood's earlier book, Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue (Women of Action), I was particularly eager to read her latest book in the Women of Action series.

Book Details

Women Heroes of World War I
16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics
by Kathryn J. Atwood
Hardcover: 246 pages
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Copyright: Standard Print Hardcover, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-61374-686-8

I'm happy to say that Ms. Atwood has once again written a book that should be on every required reading list there is for men and women.

Today's girls and young women, inundated with media messages that imply sex is a woman's only power, need to know that women also have power conferred by their intelligence, bravery, and the will to prevail -- just as men do.

Strong women aren't some latter-day phenomenon or something seen only in kick-ass contemporary movies. The women in this book lived heroic lives that put some men to shame. When male battalions refused to attack on command, Maria Bochkareva and her Russian Women's Battalion of Death rushed from the trenches to attack the German fortifications despite a deadly barrage of bullets.

Story Within the Story

Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics (Women of Action) is remarkable in that it gives a portrait of strong-willed, independent-thinking women in an era when women just weren't viewed that way by most of the world. In fact, for the women of action depicted in this book had to fight for the right to serve their respective countries.

These women couldn't even vote in their respective countries. In England, British women over the age of 30 gained the right to vote in 1918, Dutch women in 1919, and American women in 1920. Most European countries passed women's suffrage after World War I, but some delayed until World War II rolled around. France finally passed women's suffrage in 1944.

Book Bonus

This book isn't just the story of gallant women who fought but also a concise and clearly presented history of the first war that involved most of the world. Contemporary people know little about World War I, but this war is still important and relevant to our world because it set the stage for the conflicts that we face in today's world.

Most of the people in Europe saw the war as a chance to prove their patriotism. They saw it as their chance for a great adventure, and they wanted to grab the opportunity quickly because everyone thought the war would be over in a few months time. Everyone was enthusiastic about it and inspired to make their contribution to winning the war.

Sadly, they were all wrong. As Atwood writes: "It was one generation's great adventure-turned-nightmare that became the most cataclysmic event of the century, a war that destroyed the ideas of the 19th century and thrust the world violently into the 20th."

From August 1914 to June 1919 when the Treaty of Versailles was signed, ending the global war, the 10 million military personnel and 7 million civilians were killed, making it one of the deadliest conflicts in human history. Why was this war so deadly? Because it was the first war to use chemical weapons -- chlorine and mustard gas; flame throwers, automatic rifles, and aerial warfare among other firsts.

Poignant and Profound

These stories are emotional and stirring. Without hesitation, these women never took no for an answer. When Helena Gleichen offered her services as an X-ray expert to the British War Office, they turned her away. When she took her equipment, bought with her own funds, to France, the French officers listened and told her they would use her. Instead, they stole her equipment after she demonstrated how to use it.

Helena refused to take that lying down. She personally chased them down and got her equipment back. A friend suggested she try the Italians. She did, and they welcomed her and her skill with open arms.

Then there was Dr. Elsie Inglis who went to Serbia. There is a saying there about Elsie: "In Scotland they made her a doctor; in Serbia, we would have made her a saint."

I defy you to read this and not feel the sting of tears in your eyes. All these women earned their place in history and deserve to be remembered not only for their contribution to the war effort but also for opening the door that led to women fulfilling their potential, for instance, working in professions that heretofore had been only for men, voting, and so much more.

Buy Women Heroes of World War I

Hardcover Edition: Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics (Women of Action)

Kindle Edition: Women Heroes of World War I

Takeaway Truth

Honor these amazing 16 women by reading this book and getting your daughters and sons to read it too.

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