World War II: Women at War

For the nations who were deeply involved in World War II, the war effort was total, with women volunteering in huge numbers alongside men. At home, women filled traditionally male positions, taking both active and supporting positions in factories, government organizations, military auxiliaries, resistance groups, and more. While relatively few women were at the front lines as combatants, many found themselves the victims of bombing campaigns and invading armies. By the end of the war, more than 2 million women had worked in war industries. Hundreds of thousands had volunteered as nurses or members of home defense units, or as full-time members of the military. In the Soviet Union alone, some 800,000 women served alongside men in army units during the war. Collected here are images that capture some of what these women experienced and endured during the war. A note: Most of the captions are from the original sources from the 1940s, complete with the frequent use of the term "girl" to describe young women. (This entry is Part 13 of a weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II)
Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Nicky Loh / Reuters

    Taiwan's Kinmen Islands, Only a Few Miles From Mainland China

    Taiwan’s Great Kinmen Island and its neighbor islets, in a harbor just east of the Chinese city of Xiamen, are practically surrounded by the People's Republic of China—in some places barely more than a mile apart. Reuters reports that the island is now “eyeing closer commercial ties with China,” with “plans to build a bridge and set up a glittering free trade zone with the city.”

  • Toby Melville / Reuters

    Fall Is in the Air

    It's my favorite time of year once again—the autumnal equinox took place a couple weeks ago, marking the end of summer and the start of fall across the Northern Hemisphere.

  • © James Smart / National Geographic Photo Contest

    2015 National Geographic Photo Contest

    National Geographic Magazine has opened its annual photo contest, with the deadline for submissions coming up on November 16, 2015.

  • Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP / Getty

    Protesters Tear Air France Executives’ Shirts From Their Backs

    On Monday, October 5, union activists protesting against proposed layoffs at Air France broke through fences and disrupted a meeting, targeting at least two managers who were forced to flee the angry crowd, their clothes ripped from their backs.

Join the Discussion