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Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics    by Kathryn Atwood Amazon.com order for
Women Heroes of World War I
by Kathryn Atwood
Order:  USA  Can
Chicago Review Press, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

With intense nationalism the norm in the days after the start of World War I, it is no wonder that thousands of young men willingly volunteered to jump into the fray. Not only was this to be the War to End All Wars, but the experts also predicted the conflict would be over in a matter of months.

As we know, that's not exactly how this conflict played out. Not only did the war drag on for years, but the cost in human lives was horrendous. The war also changed the balance between the sexes, as women were allowed to leave home to fill positions where men were normally employed.

In Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics, Kathryn Atwood investigates how women also found their way into other roles closer to the actual conflict itself. Besides staffing medical facilities, women participated in World War I by joining the ranks of the fighting men, they resisted invaders and occupiers of their homelands, offered relief to war refugees, and sometimes even acted as spies gathering intelligence about the enemy.

The book is divided into four sections: Resisters and Spies, Medical Personnel, Soldiers and Journalists. The individual profiles feature engaging narratives, dialogues, and direct quotes plus document and diary excerpts.

Among the fascinating women you'll meet are a seventeen year old Frenchwoman, Emilienne Moreau, who assisted the Allies as a guide and set up a first-aid post in her home and Surgeon Elsie Inglis who founded the Scottish Women's Hospital for Foreign Service in France and Serbia.

In addition to the main profiles there are numerous interesting sidebars about the war itself spread throughout the book.

Of these individuals Atwood writes, 'Whether these women were doctors or nurses, factory workers or war protestors, soldiers or spies, reporters or relief workers, the way in which they proved themselves in the midst of the carnage and destruction of the First World War is remarkable, especially considering how most men and even many women of that time period placed little value on women's abilities outside the home.'

Part of the Women in Action series of books, this fascinating volume is aimed at teenagers, but adults will find it highly informative as well. As the author points out, the contributions these valiant women made are 'a testament to what a determined individual or group of individuals can accomplish even in the midst of an otherwise hopeless situation'.

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