Out of the Shadows: Women in the French Resistance
PARIS – For decades after the end of World War II, the thousands of women who died in World War II on Resistance France against the Nazi German occupation took part, barely mentioned in the history books.
The stories of Lucie Aubrac, a teacher who freed her husband Raymond from a truck taking him to a Gestapo prison, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, a resistance leader who was smuggled to Spain in a mailbag, and Madeleine Riffaud, of a female sniper who helped liberate Paris were extraordinary stories in an otherwise male-dominated narrative.
Abroad, perhaps the most famous “Resistance” is American-born dancer and singer Josephine Baker, who served as a lieutenant in the French Air Force Auxiliary Corps during the war and shared information hidden in notes.
The feminist movement of the late 1960s and 1970s led to a strong interest in women’s role in war.
But it wasn’t until 2015 before resistance fighters in the person of ethnologist Germaine Tillion and Genevieve De Gaulle-Anthonioz, a niece of war hero General Charles de Gaulle, were honored with places in the Pantheon mausoleum, France’s secular sanctum.
– Civil Resistance –
According to Laurent Douzou, history professor at the University Lumiere Lyon-11, women made up between 12 and 25 percent of all members of the resistance.
And yet only six women were honored as Companions of the Liberation – an award created by De Gaulle to honor those who fought for the freedom of France – compared to 1,038 men.
“The civil resistance, which was mainly the work of women, was not counted,” Vladimir Trouplin, curator of a Paris museum dedicated to resistance heroes, told AFP.
Misogyny also explains why women received so little credit for the roles they played.
“Women weren’t supposed to be stealing the limelight back then,” Trouplin noted.
Almost 80 years after the end of the war, the aim is to collect the stories of the women who struck for freedom in countless vital ways – for example by delivering messages and packages, transporting weapons in baskets and carts or acting as escorts for fleeing French or Allied forces prisoners or spies.
Ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, AFP interviewed three of the thousands of women whose tales of war heroes have yet to be told: Odile de Vasselot, 101, Odette Niles, 100, and Michele Agniel, 96.
All three capitalized on the fact that women were considered less suspicious and less courageous than men to slip through checkpoints and borders unnoticed.
All three rolled with death.
Odette spent almost three years in French internment camps, Odile nearly died during the liberation of Paris and Michele was sent to Germany on the last deportation train from Paris in August 1944.
Between 1940 and 1944, 6,700 women were deported from occupied France, the vast majority of them resistance fighters.
Her courage helped advance the fight for women’s emancipation. In 1944, French women finally got the right to vote.
Source: Crypto News Deutsch