Chapter 19: Abstract

History and Memory of Female Military Service in the Age of World Wars

Karen Hagemann (UNC–Chapel Hill, Department of History)

In Oxford Handbook of Gender, War, and the Western World since 1600, ed. by Karen Hagemann et al. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 470-97.


During the First and Second World War women's wartime service became increasingly important for the functioning of the homefront and battlefront in Britain, Germany, Russia, the United States and other war powers. Hundreds of thousands of women served during World War II in the military of the belligerents. Scholars estimate that the percentage of women in the Allied armed forces reached up to 2–3 percent. Especially high was the number of women in military service on the one hand in Nazi Germany, and on the other in the Soviet Union, but only in the latter they were officially enlisted as soldiers. Despite their numbers and their importance, until recently mainstream historiography and public memory have largely ignored women’s military service. The chapter will take a closer, comparative look at the women's wartime service in the Age of the World Wars in history and memory, and will try to explain the paradox that while it was increasingly needed, it has long been downplayed and overlooked in public perception and memory in all war powers, beyond political differences in the Cold War era.


World War I  and II; Europe; Soviet Union; United States; military service; war memories; female auxiliaries; female soldiers; nurses; gender.

In Part III: "The Age of the World Wars" of the Oxford Handbook of Gender, War and the Western World since 1600.

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