Throughout history, women have played diverse roles in times of war, often contributing to the war efforts in various ways. Despite facing significant societal and cultural barriers, many women have made remarkable contributions to their countries during times of conflict.

Below the level of queens and prime ministers, throughout history, some women accompanied armies assigned combat missions, usually handling roles such as cooking and laundry, as relations and camp followers. They sewed bandages, rubbed cow pat as 'medicine' and other medical equipment for the soldiers. Women worked in munitions factories. Nursing became a major role starting in the middle 19th century. The main role in World War I (1914-1918) was employment in munitions factories, farming, and other roles to replace men drafted for the army. Women played an important role in making the system of food rationing work. World War II (1939-1945) marked a decisive turning point, with millions of women handling important homefront roles, such as working in munitions factories and otherwise replacing drafted men. Volunteer roles expanded. The most dramatic new change was millions of women in regular military units. Typically they handled clerical roles so that some men could be released for combat. Many women in the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and the United Kingdom fought in combat roles especially in anti-aircraft units, where they shot down enemy bombers. Underground and resistance movements made extensive use of women in combat roles. Reaction set in after 1945, and the roles allowed to women was sharply reduced in all major armies. Restarting in the 1970s, women played an increasing role in the military of major nations, including by 2005 roles as combat pilots. The new combat roles were highly controversial for many reasons including differences in physical capabilities of the sexes [1] and issues of gender identity for both women and men.[2]


World War I

Interwar period

World War II

Cold War

21st century conflicts


See also


  1. ^ Brad Knickerbocker (January 4, 2014). "Just three pull-ups: Too many for women in the Marine Corps?". CS Monitor. Retrieved October 10, 2017.
  2. ^ Barton C. Hacker and Margaret Vining, eds. A Companion to Women's Military History (2012)

Further reading