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Women in war

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The experiences of women in war have been diverse. Historically women have played more than major roles on the home front. Citing Queen Boudica, Queen Elizabeth I, Catherine de' Medici, Catherine the Great, Maria Theresa, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Aba women and Margaret Thatcher, British historian Andrew Roberts concludes: "The witness of history is virtually uniform in the willingness of female decision makers to fight, once they have decided the causes just and/or necessary."

Below the level of queens and prime ministers, throughout history, some women accompanied armies assigned combat missions, usually handling roles such as cooking and laundry, as relations and camp followers. They sewed bandages, rubbed cow pat as 'medicine' and other medical equipment for the soldiers. Women worked in munitions factories. Nursing became a major role starting in the middle 19th century. The main role in World War I (1914-1918) was employment in munitions factories, farming, and other roles to replace men drafted for the army. Women played an important role in making the system of food rationing work. World War II (1939-1945) marked a decisive turning point, with millions of women handling important homefront roles, such as working in munitions factories and otherwise replacing drafted men. Volunteer roles expanded. The most dramatic new change was millions of women in regular military units. Typically they handled clerical roles so that some men could be released for combat. Many women in the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and the United Kingdom fought in combat roles especially in anti-aircraft units, where they shot down enemy bombers. Underground and resistance movements made extensive use of women in combat roles. Reaction set in after 1945, and the roles allowed to women was sharply reduced in all major armies. Restarting in the 1970s, women played an increasing role in the military of major nations, including by 2005 roles as combat pilots. The new combat roles were highly controversial for many reasons including differences in physical capabilities of the sexes [1] and issues of gender identity for both women and men.[2]


World War I

World War II

21st century conflicts


See also


  1. ^ Brad Knickerbocker (January 4, 2014). "Just three pull-ups: Too many for women in the Marine Corps?". CS Monitor. Retrieved October 10, 2017.
  2. ^ Barton C. Hacker and Margaret Vining, eds. A Companion to Women's Military History (2012)

Further reading

  • Clarke, R.D., 2022. Women and/in War. In: Kurtz, L.R. (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, and Conflict, vol. 2. Elsevier, Academic Press, pp. 332–343.
  • Cook, Bernard, ed. Women and War: Historical Encyclopedia from Antiquity to the Present (2006).
  • Elshtain, Jean Bethke. Women and War (1995)
  • Elshtain Jean, and Sheila Tobias, eds. Women, Militarism, and War (1990)
  • Hacker, Barton C. and Margaret Vining, eds. A Companion to Women's Military History (Brill, 2012), 625pp; 16 long essays by leading scholars stretching from the Ancient to the contemporary world
  • Jones, David. Women Warriors: A History (Brassey's, 1997)
  • Pennington, Reina. Amazons to Fighter Pilots: A Biographical Dictionary of Military Women (2003).
  • Salmonson, Jessica Amanda. The Encyclopedia of Amazons: Women Warriors from Antiquity to the Modern Era (1991).
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Women in war
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