The best non-fiction books by women on women in WWII

Ellen Hampton Author Of Women of Valor: The Rochambelles on the World War II Front
By Ellen Hampton

Who am I?

I was fortunate enough to meet a dozen Rochambelles while I was working on a PhD in history, and leapt at the chance to interview them and write their story. I had moved to Paris after a decade of journalism that included some war reporting, and while the conflicts of Central America were a snippet compared to WWII, I had a sense of the environment and the personal testing war invoked, especially for their generation. I’ve been working recently on a book about the Nazi Occupation of France, and while many great resources are in French, the following English-language books offer insight, detail, and fine writing about that momentous time.

I wrote...

Women of Valor: The Rochambelles on the World War II Front

By Ellen Hampton,

Book cover of Women of Valor: The Rochambelles on the World War II Front

What is my book about?

Women in an armored division! General Leclerc had never heard of it. But if he wanted the brand-new Dodge ambulances, he would have to take the women drivers, too. Florence Conrad, who began organizing the Rochambeau Group in New York City in 1943, was adamant. Thus the women trained in North Africa, landed at Utah Beach, and joined the brutal campaign to liberate France from the Nazi occupier. Nicknamed the Rochambelles, the women soon earned the respect and admiration of their male comrades – even those who believed war was no place for a woman. They picked up wounded soldiers under fire, pulled men out of burning tanks, even talked their way out of German custody. The Rochambelles’ courage, audacity, and determination broke through barriers and set a template for women to serve.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of A Woman's War Too: U.S. Women in the Military in World War II

Why did I love this book?

This collection of wide-ranging essays, both from women who served in WWII and from historians who have studied them, is a great place to start. It sorts out WACS from WAVES, covers cryptographers and nurses, considers racism and the political rebound of women in the military. The editors also included a useful guide to first-person material in the National Archives as well as a directory to archival collections held around the country.

By Paula Nassen Poulos,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Woman's War Too as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Book by

Book cover of An American Heroine in the French Resistance: The Diary and Memoir of Virginia d'Albert-Lake

Why did I love this book?

Edited by historian Judy Barrett Litoff, who wrote a comprehensive introduction outlining Virginia d’Albert-Lake’s war, this memoir recounts the dramatic experience of a rare American woman resistance agent in occupied France. Working with the legendary Comet escape line, she and her French husband helped shelter and move 66 Allied airmen to safety. But in 1944, a German question answered in her American accent got her sent straight to the Gestapo and then to Ravensbrück concentration camp. Virginia d’Albert-Lake tells her amazing story of life on the edge from the pages of her diary.

By Virginia d'Albert-Lake,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An American Heroine in the French Resistance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This fascinating book tells the remarkable story of an ordinary American woman's heroism in the French Resistance. Virginia Roush fell in love with Philippe d'Albert-Lake during a visit to France in 1936; they married soon after. In 1943, they both joined the Resistance, where Virginia put her life in jeopardy as she sheltered downed airmen and later survived a Nazi prison camp. After the war, she stayed in France with Philippe, and was awarded the Legion d'Honneur and the Medal of Honor. She died in 1997.
Judy Barrett Litoff brings together two rare documents-Virginia's diary of wartime France until her…

Book cover of Sisters in the Resistance: How Women Fought to Free France, 1940-1945

Why did I love this book?

Margaret Collins Weitz interviewed more than 80 women (and some men) who worked in the French Resistance during the Nazi Occupation. From this foundation, she brings forth the detailed accounts of a variety of women, from the well-known Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz, to rarely heard students, nurses, and even a nun. Their stories are told through their own voices, framed by the author in a well-researched context. Danger, tension, conflict, and loss echo through the pages, but at the core of it also is the courage the women found in themselves when their nation was in need.

By Margaret Collins Weitz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sisters in the Resistance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Critical acclaim for Sisters in the Resistance "Often moving ...always fascinating ...women in the French Resistance is a key subject. Margaret Weitz has gathered personal testimonies ...and set them in an intelligible context that helps us understand how all French people--men and women--experienced the Nazi occupation." --Robert Paxton, Mellon Professor of Social Sciences, Columbia University, and author of Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order, 1940-1944. "Compulsive reading ...a valuable book which vividly portrays the intricacies of resistance within France, written in an easy but serious style." --Times Literary Supplement (London). "An absolutely stunning and compelling chronicle of dauntless courage…

Book cover of Madame Fourcade's Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's Largest Spy Network Against Hitler

Why did I love this book?

With a talent for dramatic writing, Lynne Olson tells the story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, one of few women leaders in the French Resistance, keeping the focus on the tensions and risks agents ran in trying to subvert the occupying Nazi regime. Being a woman came in handy when the Gestapo knocked at her door looking for a “terrorist” leader – the little lady before them was not considered a threat. It was an advantage Fourcade would use time and again. Where Margaret Collins Weitz goes broad, Lynne Olson goes deep into the life of one remarkable woman.

By Lynne Olson,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Madame Fourcade's Secret War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The little-known true story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, the woman who headed the largest spy network in occupied France during World War II, from the bestselling author of Citizens of London and Last Hope Island

“Brava to Lynne Olson for a biography that should challenge any outdated assumptions about who deserves to be called a hero.”—The Washington Post


In 1941 a thirty-one-year-old Frenchwoman, a young mother born to privilege and known for her beauty and glamour, became the leader of a…

Book cover of The Women with Silver Wings: The Inspiring True Story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II

Why did I love this book?

This book brings together the inspiring stories of American women pilots who flew stateside during the war in order to free up men pilots for combat duty. They had to earn their wings technically, and then stand their ground professionally, in order to do a job few women had done before. Katherine Sharp Landdeck interviewed the former WASP pilots beginning in the 1990s and presents their stories in marvelous detail, taking off with them in training camps across the United States, soaring across landscapes of aviation history and landing with their finally getting recognition as military veterans, thirty years after their service. This is a comprehensive history of a little-known group of women who served.

By Katherine Sharp Landdeck,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Women with Silver Wings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“With the fate of the free world hanging in the balance, women pilots went aloft to serve their nation. . . . A soaring tale in which, at long last, these daring World War II pilots gain the credit they deserve.”—Liza Mundy, New York Times bestselling author of Code Girls

“A powerful story of reinvention, community and ingenuity born out of global upheaval.”—Newsday

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Cornelia Fort was already in the air. At twenty-two, Fort had escaped Nashville’s debutante scene for a fresh start as a flight instructor in Hawaii. She and her…

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