Friday, August 22, 2014

Four Female Soldiers of WWI

The nations involved in World War I mobilized their men by equating military service with patriotism. Many women took this idea to heart in a way their governments had never intended: instead of engaging in socially acceptable women's work, they found their way into the ranks of fighting men.

The following female warriors gained significant renown during the Great War.

Milunka Savic
A veteran of both Balkan Wars (1912 & 1913) as well as World War I, this Serbian warrior is widely considered to be the most highly decorated female in military history. When wounded and her gender initially discovered, it was suggested that she instead work in a nursing station. She refused and requested to be allowed to remain in the ranks of men where she had already proven herself to be a courageous warrior with excellent instincts. Her commanding officer said he'd give her his decision on the following day. She reportedly responded with the following words: "I will wait." She was allowed to remain a soldier.
Read more about Savic here.

Ecaterina Teodoroiu

Ecaterina Teodoroiu was a young woman who joined the Romanian army in an unofficial capacity to be near her brother. After he was killed, she was allowed to become an official member of the army, eventually gaining the rank of lieutenant. When she was killed during the battle of  Mărăşeşti she was widely mourned by the entire Romanian army; they had come to admire the passionate patriotism that had driven Teodoroiu to achieve what no other Romanian woman had. After the war she was reburied in a state funeral and multiple monuments were built in her honor.

Read more about Teodoroiu here.

Flora Sandes

Flora Sandes was a British woman who in 1914 accompanied an Anglo-American team of doctors, nurses, and medical volunteers to Serbia. One thing led to another and Sandes became a valued member of the Serbian army, eventually earning the rank of captain. After being wounded by a Bulgarian grenade, Sandes made a recuperation/fundraising trip to England where she gave speeches in her uniform, becoming an enormous inspiration to British women who, at the time, didn't even have the right to vote.

Read more about Sandes here.

Maria Bochkareva

Maria Bochkareva was a Russian peasant who was on the point of suicide during the summer of 1914. The war gave her a new lease on life and she obtained official permission from the Tsar to join the Russian Imperial Army. Highly decorated for bravery and wounded in action several times, Bochkareva became disgusted with the democratic principles that were integrated into the army following the February Revolution. The Provisional Government, attempting to motivate the Russian army into one more successful offensive, asked Bochkareva to organize a shock battalion of women who would fight to the death. While the resulting Women's Battalion of Death proved itself in battle, it didn't achieve its original goal of motivating the Russian army. It did, however, galvanize suffragists all over the world.

Read more about Bochkareva and the Women's Battalion of Death here and here. 

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