Pamela D. Toler

Books: History | Distaff | War

Women Warriors: An Unexpected History (2019)

Women Warriors An Unexpected HistoryOne of the things about ebooks that is both good and bad, is that when I am reading them I have no idea how long they are. This means I can be surprised at an ending, since I generally have little idea how far along I am in a book.

It also can be a little problematic, as in here, when I didn't realize this was a very short history, so I was wanting more details and variety than I got.

Which is to say, I was wanting a tome and instead of what often felt like the briefest of sketches.

That said, she has strong thoughts and ideas about isn't shy about sharing them.

(A)rguments as to why women should not go to war are deeply rooted in ideas about what it means to be female— and what it means to be a man.

This is a theme that comes up repeatedly in the book, which is both true, and something those of us who are female are probably already well aware of.

"The horror of women in body bags is not a horror of a dead woman. It's that the woman was a warrior, that she is not a victim. American culture does not want to accept that women can be both warriors and mothers. . . . To accept women as warriors means a challenge to patriarchy at its most fundamental level."

Here snark is most evident (and delightful) in the footnotes.

American war correspondent William G. Shepherd expounded in an article about Russia's battalions of women soldiers in the March 1918 issue of the Delineator. "Women have got something the men haven't," he explained through his interpreter to the young female soldier he was interviewing. "They have potential motherhood, and if you kill that, you kill the whole race."*

*Obviously "mansplaining" is not a new phenomenon.

The women she discussed range from political leaders to ordinary women.

Maria Vasilyevna Oktiabrskaya (1905– 1944), the wife of a Soviet army officer.

When Maria learned that her husband had been killed in action near Kiev in August 1941, she sold everything she owned to raise enough money to donate a T-34 tank to the Red Army. She made one condition: that she be allowed to drive it in battle. The army recognized the publicity value of a grieving widow driving a tank in her husband's memory and agreed.

She covers women who went to war pretending to be men, and women who went as themselves.

Aethelflaed became the effective ruler of Mercia during her husband's illness. When he died in 911, she succeeded him without opposition— the only female ruler in the Anglo-Saxon period in England and one of only a handful of women in early medieval Europe who ruled in their own right.

But as I said, I wanted more of it.

Though to be fair, she did give plenty of references to delve into.

Publisher: Beacon Press

Rating: 8/10