Sisters in Arms: Female warriors from antiquity to the new millennium

Sisters in Arms: Female warriors from antiquity to the new millennium

by Julie Wheelwright


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A history of female combatants, from those who joined the military disguised as men to the current role of women in the armed forces.

In October 2018, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced that all roles in the military would now be open to women. Although this marks a historic shift, officially allowing British women into combat roles, the presence of women on the front lines dates back to antiquity. Beginning with the founding myth of the Amazons—in reality female warriors of a nomadic tribe to whom the Greeks attributed super-heroic powers—Julie Wheelwright explores the history of women in arms. She traces our fascination with these figures, many of whom successfully disguised themselves as men, using primary sources and their own words to bring their experiences vividly to light. Among these forgotten heroines are Christian Davies, Ireland's most famous 18th-century soldier, who received poems from adoring women claiming that she represented a resurgence of "the Amazonian race"; Sarah Edmonds, who left her native Canada and was among hundreds of women to enlist on both sides during the American Civil War; Maria Bochkareva, a private in the Tsar's army and leader of the Women's Battalion of Death in 1917; and Captain Flora Sandes, hero of the Serbian Army, who toured Australia, thrilling her audiences with tales of bravery and patriotism.

The book follows the evolution of women in combat, from the Scythian women who begat the Amazonian myth, to the passing women in the eighteenth century, and on to the re-emergence of women as proud members of the armed forces in various countries in the 20th and 21st centuries. The book also explores the formalization of women's military roles and questions the contemporary relationship between masculinity and combat.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781472838001
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 02/18/2020
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 1,119,617
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Dr. Julie Wheelwright is the program director of the MA Creative Writing (non-fiction) which she founded in 2007 at City, University of London. She is the author of Amazons and Military Maids, The Fatal Lover: Mata Hari and the Myth of Women in Espionage, and a biography of her ancestor who was taken captive by Indians in 18th-century Maine, Esther: The Remarkable True Story of Esther Wheelwright. A former print and broadcast journalist whose career included producing and contributing to documentaries for BBC Radio and television, Channel 4, and the History Channel, she has written widely on women in the intelligence services and in the military.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements 7

Introduction 9

Chapter 1 The Persistence of a Phenomenon 15

Chapter 2 The Founding Myth of the Amazons 23

Chapter 3 Enlisting 36

Chapter 4 Life Among the Men 86

Chapter 5 The Denouement 118

Chapter 6 Back to Civvy Street 151

Chapter 7 The Legacy 176

Chapter 8 Daughters of Warriors 212

Chapter 9 Komsomol Girls to Facebook Icons 233

Endnotes 251

Select Bibliography 299

Index 312

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