A comprehensive tour of battlefields ancient and modern in which women have fought alongside men.
What makes women want to fight in war? Write historical novelist Miles (The Lady of the Sea, 2004, etc.) and historian Cross (The Battle of Kursk: Operation Citadel 1943, 2005, etc.), “A better question would be, why shouldn’t they?” The Celtic queen Boudica didn’t let her gender get in the way when she destroyed a few Roman legions, nor did Tomoe Gozen, the female samurai, whom Japanese chronicles call “a warrior worth a thousand.” There’s not much sociology in these pages, but there’s plenty of righteous carnage. Anne Frank figures as a warrior of a kind, but so too does Hermine Braunsteiner, the “Stamping Mare,” a sadistic SS guard at the Ravensbrück concentration camp and the “first Nazi war criminal to be extradited from the United States to Germany.” The authors write carefully of Jessica Lynch, the prisoner made into a “broad-brush, ‘feel-good’ item to cheer American audiences at home” at the onset of the Iraq War, while not excluding the infamous Lynndie England (of Abu Ghraib fame), there beside Braunsteiner in the hall of shame. “Nevertheless,” they add, “it must be said that the Bush administration, requiring a scapegoat for its colossal strategic misjudgment in Iraq, attempted to use England and her colleagues to bear the moral burden for its war.” The cast of characters numbers in the hundreds, and many will be little known to general readers, from the martyred Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya to women Viet Cong fighters to British spymaster Stella Rimington and Louise Michel, the fierce “Red Virgin” of the Paris Commune.
A useful introduction to the history of chiefs of distaff and other women at arms.