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.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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