Chapter 20: Abstract

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

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


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.


Female Auxiliaries; Female Soldiers; Military Women; Nurses; War Memories; Violence; World War I and II; Europe; United States.

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

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