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

  • Omar Havana/Getty Images

    Nepal After the Earthquake

    A magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal early on Saturday, centered 10 miles below the surface, less than 50 miles from the capital of Kathmandu. At least 1,100 are already reported to have been killed by the quake and subsequent avalanches triggered in the Himalayas.

  • Smithsonian.com

    Winners of the 2014 Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest

    The editors of Smithsonian magazine have announced the winners of their 12th annual photo contest, selected from more than 26,500 entries.

  • Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images

    The Eruption of Chile's Calbuco Volcano

    Chile's Calbuco volcano erupted on Wednesday, spewing a giant funnel of ash high into the sky over a sparsely populated, mountainous area, triggering a red alert. Authorities ordered an evacuation for a 10-kilometer (six-mile) radius around the volcano.

  • NASA

    Earth Day 45

    First organized in 1970, Earth Day is a day set aside to remember and appreciate the Earth's environment, and our responsibilities and roles within it. Today, April 22, we observe the 45th annual Earth Day, and though many things have changed for the better, environmental challenges remain.

Join the Discussion