Read Hell Hath No Fury Online

Authors: Rosalind Miles

Hell Hath No Fury






Women Warriors of Myth and Early History


Arab Women Warriors


Brunhilde and Fredegund


Cleopatra VII

Tomoe Gozen

Women Warriors in Ancient Greece and Rome


Women Leaders and Commanders, Directing War and Conflict

Catherine II

Elizabeth I


Gandhi, Indira

Isabella of France

Isabella I of Spain


Meir, Golda

Rice, Condoleezza

Sforza, Caterina


Thatcher, Margaret


Mavericks, Misfits, Malcontents, and Wild Ones: Women Seizing the Chance of War to Live and Fight as Men

Barry, James

Dahomey, Warrior Women of

Durova, Nadezhda

Joan of Arc

Michel, Louise

Sampson, Deborah

Sandes, Flora

Velazquez, Loreta Janeta

Women Taking Up Arms for a Cause

Bochkareva, Mariya

Eritrea, Women Combatants

Figner, Vera

FLN Bombers

Lakshmi Bai, Rani of Jhansi

Long March

Molly Pitcher


Santamaría, Haydée

Tamil Tigers

Tubman, Harriet “Araminta”

Vietnam Women Fighters

Courtesans, Consorts, and Camp Followers: Women Drawn into War to Minister to Men

Camp Followers

Comfort Women


Leaguer Ladies

Lynch, Elisa

Mata Hari

Royal Navy


Tenepal, Malinalli

Travers, Susan


Women Mobilized to Support the War Effort

Air Transport Auxiliary

Auxiliary Territorial Service

Civil Defense


Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services

First Aid Nursing Yeomanry


Israeli Defense Forces

Lotta Svärd

NATO Armed Forces

Red Army Women Soldiers

Rosie the Riveter

Soviet Women in War Industries

United States Armed Forces

US Air Force

US Army

US Marine Corps

US Navy

Voluntary Aid Detachment

Women's Army Auxiliary Corps

Women's Auxiliary Air Force

Women's Auxiliary Army Corps

Women's Royal Naval Service

Modern Soldiers, Sailors, and Airwomen

Cochran, Jacqueline

Duckworth, Tammy

Hester, Leigh Ann

Holm, Jeanne

Hopper, “Amazing” Grace

Litvak, Lily

Lynch, Jessica

McGrath, Kathleen

McSally, Martha

Mixed Antiaircraft Batteries

Night Witches

Raskova, Marina

Reitsch, Hanna

Rossi, Marie T.

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Doctors, Nurses, Medics, and Health Workers

Ang, Swee Chai

Army Nurse Corps

Barton, Clara

Bickerdyke, Mary Ann

Bullwinkel, Vivian

Chisholm, Mairi, and Elsie Knocker

Dix, Dorothea

Etheridge, Anna

Inglis, Elsie

Keil, Lillian Kinkela

Nightingale, Florence

Seacole, Mary “Mother”

US Military Nurses and Doctors

Walker, Mary Edwards

Singers, Entertainers, Artists, Propagandists, and Chroniclers of War, the Good and the Bad

Al Haideri, Sahar Hussein

Amanpour, Christiane

Bourke-White, Margaret

Deuell, Peggy Hull

Frank, Anne

Gellhorn, Martha

Gillars, Mildred Elizabeth

Kirkpatrick, Helen

K'tut Tantri

Lynn, Vera

Politkovskaya, Anna

Toguri, Ikuko

Ruthless Opportunists, Sadists, and Psychopaths Unleashed and Empowered by War

Ammash, Dr. Huda Salih Mahdi

Braunsteiner, Hermine

England, Lynndie

Grese, Irma

Khaled, Leila

Lakwena, Alice

Mbandi, Jinga

Mukakibibi, Sister Theophister

Plavsic, Biljana

Suicide Bombers

Tribal Revenge

Spies, Agents, and Underground Workers

American Civil War

Atkins, Vera

Bentov, Cheryl

Brousse, Amy Elizabeth

Cohen, Lona

de Jongh, Andrée

Hall, Virginia

Khan, Noor Inayat

Manningham-Buller, Eliza

Office of Strategic Services

Rimington, Stella

Sansom, Odette

Sendlerowa, Irena

Skarbek, Krystyna

Special Operations Executive

Szabo, Violette

Vertefeuille, Jeanne

Werner, Ruth

Witherington, Pearl



This book is for our mothers,
Lucy Simpson and Betty Cross,
who lived through two world wars

Let the generations know that women in uniform also guaranteed their freedom.

—Mary Edwards Walker, Civil War doctor and only female holder of the Congressional Medal of Honor


, far better than the men.”

So Georges Clemenceau, then mayor of Montmartre, recalled the women of the Paris Commune who manned the barricades at France's republican uprising of 1871. Fighting to the last under a relentless bombardment as government troops stormed the city with a loss of 25,000 lives, they died like men, too. As Clemenceau somberly testified, “I had the pain of seeing fifty of them shot down, even when they had been surrounded by troops and disarmed.”

History has seen many such acts of courage, daring, and self-sacrifice by women like these. These traits are to be found today, in the opening years of the twenty-first century, in such women as former US Army helicopter pilot Major
Tammy Duckworth
(see Chapter 7), who lost both her legs when her Black Hawk was shot down in Iraq in 2004; and Colonel
Martha McSally
(see Chapter 7), who flew A-10 ground-attack missions in Afghanistan and in 2004 became the first woman to command a United States Air Force combat squadron.

No comprehensive record exists of the many roles played by women in the countless wars, both hot and cold, that have marked human history. This book is written to bridge the gap in the way we look at history, women, and war, pulling together in a single volume the many strands of this continuing historical drama. Women have taken a vital part in ancient and medieval warfare; in the world wars of the twentieth century; in armed insurrections; in religious, ethnic, and tribal conflicts; and in the Cold War that lasted from 1945 to the early 1990s.

Today they are caught up in the so-called clash of civilizations between Islam and the West and in the violent politics of the Middle East and Africa. In the modern, mixed-gender armed forces deployed in these trouble spots, often under the banner of the United Nations (UN) or the
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
(NATO) (see Chapter 6), women play increasingly significant and sometimes controversial roles both in making war and in keeping the peace.

Naturally, women have not always served on the side of right. No account of women and war can be complete without coverage of its dark side, like the part played in the death camps of World War II by the women of the SS, or the career of Saddam Hussein's biological warfare expert,
Dr. Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash
(see Chapter 10), infamous as “Dr. Germ.” Nor can we overlook the intelligence careers of master spies such as
Ruth Werner
(see Chapter 11), or the grim exploits in the more recent past of female
Tamil Tigers
(see Chapter 4), or Palestinian
Suicide Bombers
(see Chapter 10). These pages contain characters as diverse and complex as “General”
Harriet Tubman
(see Chapter 4), the former slave who became the only woman to command a military mission in the American Civil War;
Margaret Thatcher
(see Chapter 2), a modern
(see Chapter 1); and the Cuban revolutionary and cultural tsar
Haydée Santamaría
(see Chapter 4).

This rich history is crammed with other characters and events crying out for a wider audience. Readers will find here most of the names they know, or think they know:
Boudicca, Joan of Arc
(see Chapter 3),
Elizabeth I
(see Chapter 2),
Florence Nightingale
(see Chapter 8), and
Golda Meir
(see Chapter 2). But they appear here as they have not always done in the past. Florence Nightingale, for instance, was not known to the troops in the Crimea as “the Lady with the Lamp,” an invention of the war correspondent of
The Times
of London, but as “the Lady with the Hammer.” This nickname arose from one of her fearless exploits, when she defied a military commander to smash her way into a locked storeroom and released much-needed medical supplies, to the great delight of the wounded men.

Like Nightingale's story, most accounts of women at war offer an unsatisfying and often mythologized pop-up history of a few outstandingly courageous and sometimes eccentric women, which invites the reader to do little more than mutter, “What a gal!” So the courage in World War II of the British agent
Odette Hallowes
(see Chapter 11) is solemnly celebrated, but not the complaint by her French Resistance colleagues that she spent too much of her time in bed with fellow agent Peter Churchill.

And these women did not operate alone. The story of Hallowes and other British women agents can only be understood in the context of the
Special Operations Executive
(SOE, see Chapter 11), which directed their work. Many fascinating questions about women at war are raised by considering the aims and methods of the SOE, its policy on the recruitment of women, and the legal problems this brought in its train. The same is also true for the American equivalent of the SOE, the
Office of Strategic Services
(OSS, see Chapter 11).

Hell Hath No Fury,
these women—both the good and the bad—rub shoulders with one another, and challenge conventional notions of womanhood. Yet many of their stories are not widely known and have not been incorporated into an overview of women's experience and achievement in thousands of years of warfare. Encyclopedias or general accounts of war give little or no attention to the contribution of women, and “the fair sex” finds itself consistently written out of the records. Female war leaders of the past regularly found their victories attributed to their generals, while some women were not acknowledged at all: the Muslim chroniclers of Africa, a continent whose tradition of warrior queens reaches back into prehistory, regularly omitted queens regnant from their lists of rulers, because women holding power did not accord with their theology of Islam.

As this suggests, the careful massaging of the record to ignore or minimize the contribution of women is as old as history itself. Resisting the Roman invasion of Britain while contending with the infighting of rival Celts, the first-century British queen
(see Chapter 1) displayed outstanding qualities as a war leader, defending her considerable territories for many years. But her success has proved far less interesting to historians than the spectacular downfall of her contemporary, the warrior queen Boudicca, who serves as an Awful Warning to women not to embark on the path of war. When Cartimandua's career is discussed, her marital status and her sex life receive greater coverage than her military prowess, just as any tabloid newspaper would treat her today.

Boudicca herself illustrates another derogatory historical technique that turns war-fighting women into monsters, unnatural creatures more masculine than feminine. In his account of Boudicca, whom he never saw, the Roman historian Tacitus stresses her huge size, deep, rasping voice, and terrifying plume of flame-red hair. Later historians repeat this description without question and also follow the Roman dismissal of her followers as “fanatics,” on the lazy assumption that they must have been crazy to follow a madwoman. In contrast, all the local tribes rallied to her banner because they believed she was divine, the incarnation of the Great Goddess on earth.

Where information about women at war exists, it is often sparse, and many warlike women blaze all too briefly into view. One such was the rambunctious Irish war leader Dearbhfhorgaill, daughter of the chief Magnus O'Connor, who held command of her own army in 1315. Given the strenuous oppression of fighting women by the early Christian church, it is understandable that Dearbhfhorgaill “with all the gallowglassses and men of Clan Murtagh that she could obtain, marched against the churches of Drumcliffe and plundered many of its clergy.” But we know nothing more of her than this.

Inevitably, those who figure in these pages represent only a fraction of the millions who served, fought, and died. There are far more heroines, and more victims, than can be contained in a single volume. Some candidates did not make the final cut because of their undeniably contemporary but tenuous connection with a military event, like the sixteenth-century Cornish sea captain Lady Killigrew, who fell on a wrecked Spanish warship during the expedition against England by the Spanish Armada, looted it, and drowned all the surviving Spaniards.

Of those who are featured, each exemplifies a reality we thought important to emphasize. Many more women deserve to be included, and we would be glad to hear from anyone who has a candidate to propose for the next edition. Nevertheless,
Hell Hath No Fury
presents a comprehensive picture of women as front-line combatants and as war leaders; as civilians swept along by titanic events in global conflicts; as diplomats, spies, and spy mistresses; and as chroniclers, propagandists, politicians, and cheerleaders in conflicts large and small: a cast of characters that includes women of every stripe from the
FLN bombers
(see Chapter 4) to
Anne Frank
(see Chapter 9).

All have been accommodated within a structure that we hope will highlight a number of overarching and abiding themes. Like every creature at the dawn of human history, the earliest females had to learn to fight in order to survive, neither expecting nor receiving any quarter for their sex. Those who failed would die, and the survival of the human race is the living proof that most of them succeeded. Initially fighting for themselves, our primitive foremothers naturally progressed to defending their homes, families, and countries as Boudicca did, in a campaign that made her one of the most famous women warriors of all time. That meant learning to organize themselves in bands like the
(see Chapter 1), and, as society evolved, gaining entry to the ranks of captains and kings.

For some women, however, warfare in succeeding ages offered the chance not to rise within the masculine hierarchy but to escape it. Trapped in unbearably stultifying lives as females, they embraced the chance of war to live and fight like men, as the brief and strange story of Joan of Arc illustrates. In contrast, many thousands of other women were only drawn into conflict by their menfolk, and shared with them the fortunes of war, like the Mexican
(see Chapter 5) mother of the film star Anthony Quinn, who followed her husband into the army of Pancho Villa, where the life was very hard. For these women, however, war was not always a tragedy. In eras when women were not allowed full employment or any significant occupation, warfare could give them a function, a family, and a home.

In the modern era, warfare has demanded increasing efforts of women behind the lines, when like
Rosie the Riveter
(see Chapter 6), they threw their weight into the war effort along with their men. Some sought and found more active roles, including leadership, both in the oldest services, the army and the navy, and in the newest, the air force. Others fought not for their society but against it, challenging the established order as rebels and revolutionaries, often meeting an early end on the scaffold or facing a firing squad.

But whatever and wherever the war, doctors and nurses like the Civil War doctor
Mary Edwards Walker
(see Chapter 8) are always needed to care for the troops. In World War II, women also gained access to this masculine and increasingly technologized world as war correspondents;
Martha Gellhorn
(see Chapter 9) was one of the many dedicated female writers, interpreters, and propagandists of war. There have also been countless women whose innate violence and cruelty are unleashed by war. The stories of such SS women as
Hermine Braunsteiner
(see Chapter 10) and
Irma Grese
(see Chapter 10) are less easy to understand than those of other fighting women, since the depths of female sadism are so hard to confront.

Our final chapter contains the largest number of women in the book, since historically the areas of espionage and resistance have offered women the greatest opportunity to contribute. In World War II, numbers of them chose to work as spies or members of the underground, a particularly dangerous and demanding branch of war service, and one in which they enjoyed much success. Inevitably this arena entailed great risk, and the penalty for capture was often torture and death. In this field, however, women were most able to fight on the front line and to use to the full their imagination, intelligence, and initiative. Their valor, heroism, endurance, and native wit helped to make the free world we live in today.

Modern female soldiers, sailors, and airwomen carry the standard for mixed-gender warfare, in particular the much-debated introduction of women to front-line combat. Some see this as an unmitigated tale of triumph, charting women's progress toward present-day equality. Yet questions remain. Has warfare speeded up women's progress to freedom? Is aggression as natural for a woman as for a man, or are women who go to war deranged in some way, “fighting mad”? Do women leaders make war to establish their authority as men do? And today, when men and women fight side by side in modern mixed-gender units, do the men always feel they have to protect their female counterparts? All these questions and more are dealt with in this book. We do not have all the answers, but we hope to provide the material for readers to make up their own minds.

Many still ask if women have any place in war as combatants. The reality of women at war challenges a profoundly held fantasy in both women and men, that men make war to protect and defend women; that women are too weak to fight and unsuited to warfare; and that all women have to do in wartime is to keep the home fires burning. This has led to a widespread denial of the reality of women's engagement in war. It says much about the wider societal attitude to women in World War II that while SOE was absolutely committed to the recruitment and employment of women in the field, it was also careful to conceal the fact from the public for much of the war, fearing popular disapproval of the use of females in what was one of the most hazardous of all the theaters of operations.

Yet from 1942 onward, by the time SOE was leaving a footprint in Nazi-occupied Europe, the British and the Americans had adopted the wide-scale employment of women in war industry and the armed services as part of their war-winning strategy, an essential element in the waging of a Total War. American and British women could be nurses in field hospitals, fitters and welders in shipyards, and workers on aircraft and tank production lines. They could load submarines with torpedoes and serve as code breakers and air-raid wardens, but the governments of the Western Allies shrank from allowing them to bear arms. Even in Britain's antiaircraft defenses, the women of the
Auxiliary Territorial Service
(ATS, see Chapter 6), who served in mixed anti-aircraft (AA) batteries, could do everything but fire the guns.

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