Sarah Aaronsohn (5 January 1890 – 9 October 1917) was a member of Nili, a ring of Jewish spies working for the British in World War I, and a sister of notable botanist Aaron Aaronsohn. Sometimes she is referred to as the “heroine of Nili.”
Sarah Aaronsohn was born and died in Zichron Yaakov,Israel, which at the time was a province of the Turkish-ruled Ottoman Empire. She lived briefly inIstanbul until 1915, when she returned home to Zichron Yaakov in December to escape an unhappy marriage .
Decision to spy
On her way from Istanbul to Haifa, Aaronsohn personally witnessed the Armenian Genocide. In her testimony, she describes seeing hundreds of bodies of men, women and babies, sickened Armenians being loaded onto trains and a massacre of up to 5,000 Armenians by bounding them to a pyramid of thorns and setting it alight. Since her trip to Haifa, any allusions to Armenians got her into a fit of hysteria.According to Chaim Herzog, Aaronsohn decided to assist British forces after she witnessed the Armenian genocide by the Ottomans in Anatolia
Aaronsohn, her brothers Aaron and Alexand their friend Absalom Feinberg formed and led Nili. Aaronsohn oversaw operations of the spy-ring and passed information to British agents offshore. When Aaron Aaronsohn was away, she headed the spy operations in Palestine. Sometimes she travelled widely through Ottoman territory collecting information useful to the British, and brought it directly to them in Egypt. In 1917, Alex urged her to remain in British-controlled Egypt, expecting hostilities by Ottoman authorities. She nevertheless returned to Zichron Yaakov to continue Nili activities
In September 1917, the Ottomans caught her carrier pigeon with a message to the British and decrypted the Nili code. In October, the Ottomans surrounded Zichron Yaakov and arrested numerous people, including Aaronsohn. After four days of torture, she managed to shoot and kill herself with a pistol concealed on the premises to avoid further torture and to protect her colleagues.
In her last letter, she expressed her hope that her activities in Nili would bring nearer the realization of a Jewish national home for the Jews in Eretz Israel.
Because of theJewish views on suicide, Aaronsohn was forbidden from being traditionally buried in a Jewish cemetery. However, refusing a Jewish burial for a Jewish war hero was naturally unpopular. As a compromise, a small fence was placed around her grave in the cemetery (symbolically removing her grave from the surrounding hallowed ground). Aaronsohn’s mother wished to be buried beside her daughter; upon her death, the fenced in section was expanded to accommodate them both.
Opha May Johnson (February 13, 1900 – January 1976) was the first woman to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. She joined the Marine Corps Reserve in 1918.
Johnson was a United States Marine in the late 1910s. She became the first woman to enlist in the Marine Corps on August 13, 1918, when she joined the Marine Corps Reserve during World War I. Johnson was the first of 305 women to enlist in the United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve that day.
Enlistment came half a century after Susan B. Anthony championed women’s rights and some twenty years after Alice Paulfought for the same cause. Johnson was seen as another combatant in the nations recent women’s rights movement.
When she became a Marine, she was given a category of “F” (for female). In those days women were allowed to enlist but were not allowed to serve in war zones. Opha May Johnson may have worked as a secretary, a cook, or another job which the first women Marines were allowed to perform, but she would not have been a military nurse (the Marine Corps does not employ a medic specialty; that position is carried out by the Navy) while her male counterparts were being sent to fight in France.
It would not be until 1967 that the first female Marine was allowed to serve in a war zone - Barbara Dulinsky.
Maria Leontievna Bochkareva (Russian: Мария Леонтьевна Бочкарева, née Frolkova, nicknamed Yashka, 1889–1920) was a Russian woman who fought in World War I and formed the Women’s Battalion of Death.
Of a peasant family, Maria Frolkova was born in the Novgorod Guberniyain 1889. She left home aged fifteen to marry Afanasy Bochkarev and they moved to Tomsk, Siberia where they worked as laborers. When her husband began to assault her, Bochkareva left him and entered a relationship with a local named Yakov Buk. She and Buk established a butcher shop, but in May, 1912, Buk was arrested for larceny and sent to Yakutsk. Bochkareva followed him into exile, primarily on foot, and the couple established another butcher shop. Buk was caught stealing again and sent to the remote settlement of Amga in 1913, and once again Bochkareva followed him. Buk began drinking heavily and soon became abusive.
At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Bochkareva left Buk and returned to Tomsk. In November, she managed to join the 25th Tomsk Reserve Battalion of the Imperial Russian Army by securing the personal permission of Tsar Nicholas II. Men of the regiment treated her with ridicule or sexually harassed her until she proved her mettle in battle. In the following years, Bochkareva was twice wounded and decorated three times for bravery. She bayoneted at least one German soldier to death. (To End All Wars, Hochschild, at 282.)
After the abdication of the Tsar in March 1917, she was charged with creating an all-female combat unit by Minister of War Alexander Kerensky. This was the first women’s battalionto be organized in Russia. Bochkareva’s 1st Russian Women’s Battalion of Death initially attracted around 2,000 women volunteers, but the commander’s strict discipline drove all but around 300 dedicated women soldiers out of the unit.
After a month of intensive training, Bochkareva and her unit were sent to the Russian western front to participate in the June Offensive. The unit was involved in one major battle, near the town of Smorgon. The women of the unit performed well in combat, but the vast majority of male soldiers, already long demoralised, had little inclination to continue fighting. Bochkareva herself was wounded in the battle and sent back to Petrograd to recuperate.
Bochkareva was only marginally involved in the creation of other women’s combat units formed in Russia during the spring and summer of 1917. Her unit was at the front at the time of the Bolshevik October Revolution and did not participate in the defense of the Winter Palace(this was another women’s unit, the 1st Petrograd Women’s Battalion). The unit disbanded after facing increasing hostility from the male troops remaining at the front. Bochkareva returned to Petrograd where she was initially detained by the Bolsheviks but released shortly thereafter. She secured permission to rejoin her family in Tomsk, but left for Petrograd again in early 1918. She claims to have then received a telegram asking her to take a message to General Lavr Kornilov, who was commanding a White Armyin the Caucasus. After leaving Kornilov’s headquarters she was again detained by the Bolsheviks, and after learning her connection with the Whites, was scheduled to be executed. She was rescued, however, by a soldier who had served with her in the Imperial army in 1915 and who convinced the Bolsheviks to stay her execution. She was granted an external passport and allowed to leave the country. Bochkareva then made her way to Vladivostok, where she left for the United States by steamship in April, 1918.
She arrived in San Francisco and then made her way to New York and Washington, D.C, sponsored by the wealthy socialite Florence Harriman. She was given a meeting with President Woodrow Wilson on July 10, 1918, during which she begged the president to intervene in Russia. Wilson was apparently so moved by her emotional appeal that he responded with tears in his eyes and promised to do what he could.
While in New York, Bochkareva dictated her memoirs, Yashka: My Life As Peasant, Exile, and Soldier to a Russian emigre journalist named Isaac Don Levine. After leaving the United States she traveled to Great Britain where she was granted an audience with King George V. The British War Office gave her funding to return to Russia. She arrived in Archangel in August 1918 and attempted to organize another unit, but failed.
In April 1919 she returned to Tomsk and attempted to form a women’s medical detachment under the White admiral Aleksandr Kolchak, but before she could complete this task she again was captured by the Bolsheviks. She was sent to Krasnoiarsk where she was interrogated for four months and finally sentenced to execution, found guilty of being an enemy of the people. The Cheka carried out her execution by firing squad on May 16, 1920.
Hello Girls was the colloquial name for American bilingual female switchboard operators in World War I, formally known as the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit. During World War I, these switchboard operators were sworn into the U.S. Army Signal Corps.
This corps were formed in 1917 from a call by General John J. Pershing to improve communications on the Western front. Applicants had to be bilingual in English and French. Over 7,000 women applied, but only 450 were accepted. Many were former switchboard operators or employees at telecommunications companies. They completed their Signal Corps training at Fort Franklin (present day Fort George G. Meade) in Maryland.
After training, the first operators, under the lead of Chief Operator Grace Banker, left for Europe in March 1918. Members of this unit were soon operating telephones in many exchanges of the American Expeditionary Forces in Paris,Chaumont, and seventy-five other French locations as well as British locations in London,Southampton, and Wincheste
Despite the fact that they wore U.S. Army Uniforms and were subject to Army Regulations (Chief Operator Grace Banker received the Distinguished Service Medal), they were not given honorable discharges but were considered “civilians” employed by the military, because Army Regulations specified the male gender. Not until 1978, the 60th anniversary of the end of World War I, did Congress approve Veteran Status/Honorable discharges for the remaining “Hello Girls.” A Hello Girl uniform is on display at the U.S Army Signal Museum. The uniform was worn by Louise Ruffe, a U.S. Signal Corps telephone operator
Yeoman was a rank in the U.S. Naval Reserve inWorld War I. The first female Yeoman was Loretta Perfectus Walsh. At the time, the women were popularly referred to as “yeomanettes” or even “yeowomen”, although the official designation was Yeoman.
In March 1917,Secretary of the NavyJ osephus Daniels realized that the Naval Reserve Act of 1916 used the word “yeoman” instead of “man” or “male”, and allowed for the induction of “all persons who may be capable of performing special useful service for coastal defense.” He began enlisting females as Yeoman (F), and in less than a month the Navy officially swore in the first female sailor in U.S. history.
Typically, female Yeoman reservists performed clerical duties such as typing, stenography, bookkeeping, accounting, inventory control, and telephone operation. A few became radio operators, electricians,draftsmen,pharmacists, photographers, telegraphers, fingerprint experts, chemists, torpedo assemblers and camouflage designers. Female Yeomen did not attend boot camp. A large number were stationed in Washington, D.C., while others served in naval stations, hospitals, shipyards and munitions factories around the country. Many recruiting stations employed the women who volunteered there as very effective recruiters, and as many as forty women served in England, France, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Canal Zone, Guam, and the Territory of Hawaii.
Without new technologies, the Navy would never have had enough jobs to employ 11,274 female Yeomen. Also, having women in uniform was a positive image for the Navy to project. As well as their many military duties, the women were taught to march and drill at public rallies, recruiting campaigns, war bond drives, and troop send-offs.
Women in the Military During WWI.
During the course of the war, 21,480 U.S. Army nurses (military nurses were all women then) served in military hospitals in the United States and overseas. Eighteen African-American Army nurses served stateside caring for German prisoners of war (POWs) and African-American soldiers; after the Armistice, Nov. 11, 1918, they entered the Army Nurse Corps and cared for POWs. They were assigned to Camp Grant, IL, and Camp Sherman, OH, and lived in segregated quarters while caring for German POWs and black soldiers. African-American women also served in WWI as U.S. Yeomen (F). Of the 11,274 U.S. Yeomen (F) who served from 1917-1921, 14 were black. The first American women enlisted into the regular armed forces were 13,000 women admitted into active duty in the Navy and Marines during World War I, and a much smaller number admitted into the Coast Guard. The Yeoman (F) recruits and women Marines primarily served in clerical positions. They received the same benefits and responsibilities as men, including identical pay (US$28.75 per month), and were treated as veterans after the war. These women were quickly demobilized when hostilities ceased, and aside from the Nurse Corps the soldiery became once again exclusively male.
The U.S. Army recruited and trained 233 female bilingual telephone operators to work at switchboards near the front in France and sent 50 skilled female stenographers to France to work with the Quartermaster Corps. The U.S. Navy enlisted 11,880 women as Yeomen (F) to serve stateside in shore billets and release sailors for sea duty. More than 1,476 U.S. Navy nurses served in military hospitals stateside and overseas. The U.S. Marine Corps enlisted 305 female Marine Reservists (F) to “free men to fight” by filling positions such as clerks and telephone operators on the home front. More than 400 U.S. military nurses died in the line of duty during World War I. The vast majority of these women died from a highly contagious form of influenza known as the “Spanish Flu,” which swept through crowded military camps and hospitals and ports of embarkation.
Over 2,800 women served with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps during World War I, and it was during that era that the role of Canadian women in the military first extended beyond nursing. Women were given paramilitary training in small arms, drill, first aid and vehicle maintenance in case they were needed as home guards.
The only belligerent to deploy female combat troops in substantial numbers was the Russian Provisional Government in 1917. Its few “Women’s Battalions” fought well, but failed to provide the propaganda value expected of them and were disbanded before the end of the year. In the later Russian Civil War, the Bolsheviks would also employ women infantry
Dorothy Lawrence (4 October 1896–1964) was an Englishreporter who secretly posed as a man to become a soldier during theFirst World War.
Lawrence was born in Polesworth,Warwickshire, the second daughter of Thomas Hartshorn Lawrence, a drainage contractor, and his wife, Mary Jane Beddall.
In 1914, at the start of the war and aged 19, Dorothy was living in Paris and had a desire to be a war reporter on the front lines, but was unable to get employment because she was a woman, and it was nearly impossible for even male reporters to get to the front line at that time.
She recorded in a later autobiography “I’ll see what an ordinary English girl, without credentials or money can accomplish.” (Lawrence, 41-2). She befriended two English soldiers in a café, and they agreed to give her a uniform which they smuggled into her apartment. She bound her chest, padded her back with sacking and cotton, and her friends taught her to drill and march. She persuaded two Scottish military policemen to cut her hair military style and then dyed her skin using diluted furniture polish to give it a bronzed color. With forged identity papers as Private Denis Smith of the 1st Bn,Leicestershire Regiment she headed for the front lines, eventually arriving at the Somme by bicycle.
A Lancashire coalminer named Tom Dunn befriended Dorothy and found her work as a Sapper with the British Expeditionary Force tunnelling company, a mine-laying company within 400 yards (370 m) of the front line, where she was constantly under fire. He found her an abandoned cottage in Senlis Forestto sleep in, and she returned to it each night after laying mines by day. The toll of the job, and of hiding her true identity, soon gave her a case of constant chills and rheumatism. She was concerned that if she was killed her true gender would be discovered and the men who had befriended her would be in danger. After 10 days of service she presented herself to the commanding sergeant, who promptly placed her under military arrest.
She was taken to the British Expeditionary Forceheadquarters and interrogated as a spy and declared a prisoner of war. From there she was taken cross country by horse to Calais where her interrogation occupied the time of six generals and approximately twenty other officers. She was ignorant of the term camp follower (prostitute) and she later recalled “We talked steadily at cross purposes. On my side I had not been informed what the term meant, and on their side they continued unaware that I remained ignorant! So I often appeared to be telling lies.” (Lawrence, 161).
From Calais she was taken to Saint-Omerand further interrogated. The Army was embarrassed that a woman had breached security and was fearful of more women taking on male roles during the war if her story got out. She was then taken to the Convent de Bon Pasteur where she swore not to write about her experiences and signed an affidavit to that effect, or she would be sent to jail. She was then sent back to London.
Back in London she was unable to write of her experiences, which had been her original intent. She later said, “in making that promise I sacrificed the chance of earning by newspaper articles written on this escapade, as a girl compelled to earn her livelihood” (Lawrence, 189). After the war ended she wrote of her experiences, but it was censored by the War Officeand not fully published until many years later when discovered by a historian in the archives. Her story became part of an exhibition at theImperial War Museumon women at war.
In 1919, she moved to Canonbury,Islington, but after claiming she had been raped by her church guardian, she was institutionalised as insane in 1925. She died at Friern Hospital (formerly Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum) in 1964. Very little is known about her life after 1919.
In case you were wondering. The books title is Sapper Dorothy Lawrence: the only English woman soldier, Late Royal Engineers 51st Division 179th Tunnelling Company BEF and you can get it online from that link.
Few physicists throughout history, male or female, can match up to the greatness of Marie Curie. Besides her revolutionary, pioneering research into radiation, she also discovered the pathways to technologies such as chemotherapy and nuclear weaponry. If that wasn’t enough, she was the first person honored with two Nobel Prizes - at a time when women were not taken seriously in the scientific field.
Maria Sklodowska was born on November 7th, 1867 in Warsaw, Poland. Her family had been involved with acts of Polish patriotism during a time where the Russians controlled the area, and the family had thus lost all of their wealth and property. As a young woman she studied at the clandestine Floating University, and acted as a tutor to Polish women in factories.
Once she had moved to Paris to study physics, she met Pierre Curie. The two fell in love, and were married - creating arguably the greatest scientific partnership of all time. She worked towards earning her Ph.D by studying radioactive materials, a recent discovery by Henri Becquerel. At this time, the couple was effectively broke - and both worked as full-time teachers. They worked in a slipshod, homemade laboratory that they built in an old shed. Although they couldn’t afford assistants, proper supplies or even food at times - the couple still made outstanding discoveries. The couple discovered two new elements, Radium and Polonium. Marie, during this time, coined the term ‘radioactivity,’ and was so selfless that she didn’t patent her ideas. She didn’t want other scientists to deal with copyright issues, so the left her discoveries in the public domain, an uncommon act at the time.
In 1903, Marie Curie cleaned up - earning both her Ph.D and the Nobel Prize. She became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, and once she was awarded the Nobel in Chemistry in 1911 she became the first person, regardless of gender, to win two Nobels in two different fields. To this very day, Madame Curie remains the only person to win the Prize in two different sciences. Later, in 1935 - her daughter Irene would win the Prize as well.
In 1906, tragedy struck Marie when Pierre died from a horse-drawn carriage accident. Marie took over his chair at the Sarbonne Academy in Paris, thus becoming its first female professor. When World War I broke up, she donated her gold Nobel Prizes to be melted down to support the war effort, and hopped in a mobile radiation therapy truck. She used gamma rays to help alleviate the pain of wounded soldiers, thus essentially beginning the process of chemotherapy.
After the war, Curie realized that working with nuclear materials was hazardous to her health, but at this point she wasn’t phased by the discovery. In fact, the Curie (Ci) has become the standard unit of radiation. She warned others against working with gamma rays without appropriate precautions, but she continued her own research. Marie Curie died on the 4th of July, 1934 - she was 66.
Minneapolis Park Board girls rifle team, circa 1920.