15 badass women of World War II you didn't learn about in history class.

The women of World War II were stone-cold warriors.

Much like their male counterparts, women in the Allied countries were clamoring to get in the game from the moment war broke out. For the most part, the men in charge were like, "We're, uh, not exactly sure what to do with you." And the women were like, "Too bad. We're doing it anyway. Kthxbye!"

These are just a few of them — some famous, some obscure, all ridiculously courageous.


1. Virginia Hall: Allied Spy

Photo via the CIA.

"She is the most dangerous of Allied spies. We must find and destroy her" was an actual thing the Gestapo said about Virginia Hall, an American operative in Vichy France, who helped gather vital intelligence for Britain in the early years of the war.

Despite the fact that her country — the United States — had yet to enter the war. Despite the fact that women weren't generally considered spy material by the prevailing dudes in charge. Despite walking with a limp on a prosthetic leg, which made her as easily identifiable as, say, James Bond in every movie ever. (Seriously, does anyone in the world not know James Bond is a spy? How is it even possible he's still undercover at this point? Who can I talk to about this?)

When America did finally enter the war, Hall was forced to escape by herself, on foot, over the Pyrenees mountains, all while still only having one leg. Upon arriving in Spain, she promptly pleaded to be sent back, which she ultimately was — this time to occupied France, where she helped train the French resistance, cut Nazi supply lines, and generally cause mass chaos in preparation for the Allied landing at Normandy. While being literally hunted by Nazis.

Hall is pictured above receiving an award for her service, probably wondering how many Gestapo agents the old dude giving her the award has fled while wearing heels.

2. Jacqueline Cochran: Aviator

Photo via the U.S. Air Force.

Before the Untied States entered World War II, aviator Jacqueline Cochran — who had already proven that she could fly a plane faster than any woman or man alive — politely asked Gen. Hap Arnold to let women fly in the U.S. military, to which he replied, "Ehhhhh, no. Nope. No thanks."

Then the war started. And Arnold was like, "Um ... about that..."

For the next three years, Cochran trained female pilots — who came to be known as WASPs — to pilot American military aircraft. She became the first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic Ocean. She supervised the training program, which spanned 120 bases, until 1944 when it was discontinued by the military because of, like, cooties or whatever.

That didn't stop Cochran, however. After the war, she became the first woman to break the sound barrier. And, according to the National WASP World War II Museum, she "holds more international speed, distance and altitude records than any other pilot, male or female," to this day.

3. Sophie Scholl: German Dissident

Photo by RyanHulin/Wikimedia Commons.

It's comforting to think that, if you or I lived in Nazi Germany, we'd have the guts to march right into Hitler Headquarters and slap Hitler in the face personally. In reality, however, we'd most likely be the guy 19 rows deep in the parade, frantically waving our tiny swastika flag, thinking, "Please don't look at me, pleasedontlookatme, pleasedontlookatme pleasepleaseplease." (I'm 95% sure I'd be that guy — maybe you wouldn't be!)

Sophie Scholl wasn't here for that.

Disgusted by the rumors of mass slaughter on the Eastern Front and the deaths of an ever-growing number of her countrymen, Sophie — only 21 at the time — her brother Hans, and their friend Christoph Probst began distributing leaflets at the University of Munich denouncing the Nazis and calling for resistance among the German people. Their flyers eventually spread around Germany to the University of Hamburg and beyond, and into one of the few genuine flare-ups of internal political resistance against Hitler during the war.

Unfortunately, the Nazis, as you may have heard, were known for being a tad tough on dissent.

Sophie, Hans, and Probst were eventually captured by the Gestapo, tried, and executed for treason. Her last words were: "What does my death matter, if through us thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?"

You can totally be excused for crying. I know — I hate it when I get something in my eye too.

4. Susan Travers: French Foreign Legion Soldier

Photo by Levin01/Wikimedia Commons.

As an ambulance driver and the only woman in the French Foreign Legion, Travers was stationed at the Free French fort Bir Hakeim in Libya when it was surrounded by German troops (she refused to leave, even when the other female staff were evacuated). Travers and the soldiers inside bravely held out for 15 days — until their supplies ran out and it became clear that no help was coming.

That's when Travers hopped in her truck, presumably put on her finest Arnold Schwarzenegger voice (unclear how she knew to do this, as this was five years before Schwarzenegger was even born — but lady knew what was up), and said, "Come with me if you want to live."

The squad launched a daring nighttime escape with Travers at the wheel of the lead vehicle. Her truck took 11 bullets, but she ultimately made it to Allied lines and helped save the lives of 2,500 Free French soldiers in the process.

It is rumored that Susan Travers never secreted a single drop of sweat at any point in the next 71 years. She was just. that. badass.

5. Faye Schulman: Partisan Fighter

Photo by Faye Schulman, via Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation, used with permission.

After her whole family was massacred by the Nazis in the Lenin ghetto in Poland, Faye Schulman fled into the nearby woods, where she joined a group of resistance fighters. A skilled photographer, Schulman participated in a daring raid to rescue her photography equipment and proceeded to take a series of incredible photographs that captured the rarely seen daily lives of partisan fighters during the war.

As the only Jewish woman in the group, Schulman kept her identity secret throughout much of the war, all while documenting the bravery and sacrifice of her cohort. "I want people to know that there was resistance," she said in an interview after the war. "Jews did not go like sheep to the slaughter. I was a photographer. I have pictures. I have proof."

6 and 7. Frances Eliza Wills and Harriet Ida Pickens: Naval Officers

Photo by the Department of Defense/Wikimedia Commons.

"Sailors?" you might be thinking. "What's the big deal? Tons of American women served in the Naval Reserve (WAVES) during the Second World War." Which is true.

Frances Eliza Wills and Harriet Ida Pickens, however, were the first to do it while black — and contend with the ridiculous amount of racism that came along with that.

In an era when the military was still segregated, Wills and Pickens overcame institutional barriers, a mountain of prejudice, and social expectations just to claim a job that thousands of their white peers were granted simply by showing up. They became the first black female officers in the U.S. Navy and were assigned to teach at the Hunter Naval Training Station in the Bronx.

72 black women in total served in WAVES during the war, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Wills and Pickens.

8. Veronica Lake: Actor/Icon

Photo via Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Movie star Veronica Lake had the most famous haircut in the world in the early 1940s. Then World War II happened, and she changed it. For patriotism.

Worried the thousands of American women who were copying her signature "peek-a-boo" cut were endangering themselves as they moved into heavy industrial work, Lake publicly restyled her long, flowing, wavy hair — a 'do that was driving her thriving film career — into a ... kind of braided up-thing.

According to an interview she gave many years later, she was told that accident rates fell 22% after her heroic hair appointment.

And because the world can be an awful, unfair place, her job offers started slowly drying up. Though she did film a few movies after the war, her career never really recovered.

No haircut will ever be as patriotic. That's right. I'm looking at you, red-white-and-blue mohawk.

9. Gertrude Boyarski: Partisan Fighter

Gertrude Boyarski at her 1946 wedding. Photo provided by Jewish Partisan Education Foundation, used with permission.

After fleeing Derechin, a Polish Jewish ghetto, with her parents and siblings, Boyarski — a teenager at the time — watched in horror as each member her family was gunned down one by one in sneak attacks by SS troops and their local allies. Boyarski continued to flee until she eventually linked up with a Russian partisan group, telling its commander, "I want to fight and take revenge for my whole family."

Believing this to be one of the most Russian things anyone has ever said, the commander admitted Boyarski into the unit.

And revenge she took.

Shortly after joining the group, Boyarski and a friend raided a local village, acquired a crap-ton of kerosene, and burned down a bridge the Germans used to move people and supplies. Even as the Nazis figured out they'd been had and started firing back, Boyarski and her friend continued to curb-stomp the bridge, breaking off pieces with their bare hands and feet, presumably cackling to themselves and high-fiving the whole time.

10. Nancy Wake: Allied Spy

Photo via Australian War Memorial/Wikimedia Commons.

The first line of Nancy Wake's 2011 New York Times obituary notes that the former New Zealander spy "did not like killing people." But oh, did she kill people. Occasionally with her bare hands.

Lady was ice-cold.

Known as "The White Mouse" by her German pursuers, Wake spent much of the war as an Allied operative in France, helping escaped POWs and others wanted by the Germans flee to Spain, running messages between the British military and French resistance — and, of course, choking the life out of various Nazis.

"I was not a very nice person," Wake said once, according to the Times. "And it didn't put me off my breakfast."

Wake passed away peacefully in 2011 at the ripe old age of 98 and is presumably reluctantly but efficiently strangling Nazis in the afterlife.

11. Nadezhda Popova: Bomber Pilot

Photo by Kremlin Presidential Press and Information Office/Wikimedia Commons.

By the time the USSR allowed women to join its Air Force, the German Army was already deep in Soviet territory and threatening to overrun Moscow. When word finally came down, Nadezhda Popova was like, "Aw yeah. Strap up, ladies. Let's go."

As a member of the feared "Night Witches" squadron, Popova flew 852 missions in an old biplane (mostly at night), was shot down numerous times, and blew up lots of valuable German military equipment in the process.

See that smile? That's the smile of a woman who knows she could easily take you and all your grandpas one-on-one.

12. Hedy Lamarr: Inventor

Photo via Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

For most of the late 1930s and '40s, Hedy Lamarr was just your average world-famous actress who appeared in countless films alongside the likes of Charles Boyer, Spencer Tracy, and Clark Gable — and also invented a critically important military technology in her spare time.

Unbeknownst to many who saw her on screen, Lamarr was a passionate inventor — and, as an Austrian immigrant, an ardent Nazi despiser. Working with composer George Antheil, Lamarr discovered an ingenious method of preventing enemy ships from jamming American torpedoes by making radio signals jump between frequencies, rather than stay on a single channel.

To put this in perspective, it's sort of like if Eva Green built the first drone, or Jessica Chastain came up with the idea for cruise missiles.

As a foreigner, a non-member of the military, and a woman, Lamarr's invention went largely ignored until the 1960s, when some dude scientists unearthed it and put it to use during the Cuban Missile Crisis (and probably took all the credit for it at parties). It's also basically the reason we have things like GPS, Bluetooth, and advanced guided missile technology.

The reason Jessica Chastain didn't have to invent cruise missiles? Hedy freakin' Lamarr did it first.

13. Violette Szabo: Allied Spy

Photo via the Imperial War Museum/Wikimedia Commons.

Following her husband's death on the battlefield in North Africa, Violette Szabo volunteered for the British Special Operations Executive and was paradropped into occupied France with orders to generally wreck stuff and raise hell. Szabo did so more than ably — destroying Nazi infrastructure like it was her job — for several months, until she and a fellow resistance fighter drove straight into a German roadblock while out on a mission.

Szabo and her companion leapt out of the car and fled on foot, shooting the whole time. When it became clear that Szabo wasn't going to escape, she continued to fire at the German soldiers until her partner was safely out of harm's way. On her way to the concentration camp at Ravensbruck, she and another woman who were chained together dragged themselves through the train in order to bring water to suffering male prisoners during a raid.

Szabo attempted to escape the camp many times, unfortunately to no avail. She was ultimately executed a few weeks before the Allied victory — yet remained a total, committed G to the very end.

14. Veronica Foster: Factory Worker

Photo via Library and Archives Canada/Wikimedia Commons.

Before America had Rosie the Riveter, Canada had Ronnie, the Bren Gun Girl (Canadians get straight to the point). Unlike Rosie, Ronnie was a real-life woman named Veronica Foster, seen here smoking and admiring a big-ass gun she just made.

Ronnie's no-nonsense, tough-as-nails, gun-constructing demeanor helped inspire millions of Canadian women to get to work in wartime factories. After the war, she took the next logical step in her employment and became a singer in a big band.

Pretty sure that's the Canadian Dream right there.

15. Lyudmila Pavlichenko: Soviet Sniper

I came here to chew bubble gum and shoot Nazis. And I'm all out of bubble gum. Photo by Mar/Wikimedia Commons.

As a sniper fighting the Nazis in the USSR, Lyudmila Pavlichenko recorded 309 kills — the most of any female sniper in history.

"We mowed down Hitlerites like ripe grain," she said of her role in the battle of Sevastopol, presumably dropping a mic, kicking a door down, and speeding away in her Escalade. Pavlichenko became a national hero for her efforts and even toured the U.S. in 1942.

Eventually, the Soviets turned the tide on the Eastern Front and marched slowly but surely on to Germany. And the world was never the same.

Thanks in no small part to one woman.

Who shot a lot of Nazis.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

This article originally appeared on 12.02.19


Just imagine being an 11-year-old boy who's been shuffled through the foster care system. No forever home. No forever family. No idea where you'll be living or who will take care of you in the near future.

Then, a loving couple takes you under their care and chooses to love you forever.

What could one be more thankful for?

That's why when a fifth grader at Deerfield Elementary School in Cedar Hills, Utah was asked by his substitute teacher what he's thankful for this Thanksgiving, he said finally being adopted by his two dads.

via OD Action / Twitter

To the child's shock, the teacher replied, "that's nothing to be thankful for," and then went on a rant in front of 30 students saying that "two men living together is a sin" and "homosexuality is wrong."

While the boy sat there embarrassed, three girls in the class stood up for him by walking out of the room to tell the principal. Shortly after, the substitute was then escorted out of the building.

While on her way out she scolded the boy, saying it was his fault she was removed.

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One of the boy's parents-to-be is Louis van Amstel, is a former dancer on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." "It's absolutely ridiculous and horrible what she did," he told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We were livid. It's 2019 and this is a public school."

The boy told his parents-to-be he didn't speak up in the classroom because their final adoption hearing is December 19 and he didn't want to do anything that would interfere.

He had already been through two failed adoptions and didn't want it to happen again.

via Loren Javier / Flickr

A spokesperson for the Alpine School District didn't go into detail about the situation but praised the students who spoke out.

"Fellow students saw a need, and they were able to offer support," David Stephenson said. "It's awesome what happened as far as those girls coming forward."

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He also said that "appropriate action has been taken" with the substitute teacher.

"We are concerned about any reports of inappropriate behavior and take these matters very seriously," Kelly Services, the school the contracts out substitute teachers for the district, said in a statement. "We conduct business based on the highest standards of integrity, quality, and professional excellence. We're looking into this situation."

After the incident made the news, the soon-to-be adoptive parents' home was covered in paper hearts that said, "We love you" and "We support you."

Religion is supposed to make us better people.

But what have here is clearly a situation where a woman's judgement about what is good and right was clouded by bigoted dogma. She was more bothered by the idea of two men loving each other than the act of pure love they committed when choosing to adopt a child.