I saw a very popular post on this, but the list was full of white women and fictional characters from movies mostly. 17/23 were white, and everyone was from a movie or TV show except for the fucking queen of England. So instead of praising animated characters, Hollywood actresses, or the British imperialists, I thought I’d make a much better list of actual women in history that actually did great things for the cause of the liberation of women, the working class, and the struggle against imperialism.
Comrade Kim Jong Suk (DPRK)
Comrade Lyudmila Pavlichenko, most successful female sniper in history (USSR)
Comrade Mariya Oktyabrskaya “Fighting Girlfriend” (USSR)
Camarada Aleida March (Cuban Revolucion)
Kurdish YPJ Fighters
Comrade Roza Shanina, 59 confirmed kills (USSR)
Female NLF (Vietcong) fighters
Soviet 588th Night Bomber Regiment, aka “The Night Witches”
Camarada Marina Ginesta (Spanish Civil War)
Comrade Leila Khaled (Palestine)
Comrade Fusako Shigenobu (Japanese Red Army)
Yugoslav Communist Women Fighters during WW2
Soviet fighter pilot Lydia Litvyak, first female fighter ace in history (USSR)
Soviet Air Force officers, Rufina Gasheva (848 night combat missions) and Nataly Meklin (980 night combat missions) decorated as ‘Heroes of the Soviet Union’ for their service with the famed 'Night Witches’ unit during World War II They stand in front of their Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes.
The 'Night Witches’ 588th Night Bomber Regiment flew harassment bombing and precision bombing missions against the German military from 1942 to the end of the war. At its largest size, it had 40 two-person crews. It flew over 23,000 sorties and is said to have dropped 3,000 tons of bombs. It was the most highly decorated female unit in the Soviet Air Force, each pilot having flown over 800 missions by the end of the war and twenty-three having been awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union title. Thirty of its members died in combat.
(Colourisation and research by Olga Shirnina from Russia)
The Night Witches (from the German Nachtexen) were a regiment of female military aviators, formally the 588th Night Bomber Regiment of the Soviet Air Forces.
In the summer of 1941, Col. Marina Raskova was called upon to organize a regiment of women pilots to fly night combat missions of harassment bombing. From mechanics to navigators, pilots and officers, the 588th regiment was composed entirely of women; it became the most highly decorated female unit in the Soviet Air Force, each pilot having flown over 800 missions by the end of the war and twenty-three having been awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union title.
Missions were carried out against the German military from 1942 to the end of the war. The Night Witches flew in wood and canvas Polikarpov Po-2 planes; despite being obsolete and slow, the basic materials allowed for daring maneuvers and exceedingly quiet entrances. An attack technique of the night bombers was to idle the engine near the target and glide to the bomb release point, with only wind noise to reveal their location; German soldiers likened the sound to broomsticks, giving rise to the nickname. (Incidentally, the Nazis also feared and loathed them: any pilot who shot down a witch was awarded an Iron Cross.)
The Night Witches overcame challenges from within the Soviet Air Force to fly combat missions, and over time became an important force against the Nazis, flying over 23,000 sorties and said to have dropped 3,000 tons of bombs. And they did all this while decorating their planes with flowers and using their navigation pencils as lip color. [x]
“Night Witches" is the English translation of Nachthexen, a World War II German nickname (in Russian Ночные ведьмы), for the female military aviators of the 588th Night Bomber Regiment, known later as the 46th "Taman" Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment, of the Soviet Air Forces.
The regiment was formed by Colonel Marina Raskova and led by Major Yevdokia Bershanskaya. The regiment flew harassment and precision bombing missions against the German military from 1942 to the end of the war. At its largest size, it had 40 two-person crews. It flew over 23,000 sorties and is said to have dropped 3,000 tons of bombs. It was the most highly-decorated female unit in the Soviet Air Force, each pilot having flown over 800 missions by the end of the war and twenty-three having been awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union title. Thirty of its members died in combat.
An attack technique of the night bombers was to idle the engine near the target and glide to the bomb release point, with only wind noise to reveal their location. German soldiers likened the sound to broomsticks and named the pilots "Night Witches.” Due to the weight of the bombs and the low altitude of flight, the pilots carried no parachutes.
I just noticed in your Master List of Historical Women in Combat, you missed out the all-female 588th Night Bomber regiment, aka Nachthexen (Night Witches) from the portion focusing on women in 20th century conflict. I am a tad bit curious as to why they aren't included. Although, I can easily imagine that in a post of that length and with the amount of research needed, certain things can be unfortunately overlooked.
I included Lydia Litvyak as a placeholder for the Night WItches. Why, exactly, has to do with how I do my research. I do entries on individuals as opposed to groups. If a group has several notables that have each done different feats (i.e. the SOE), they’ll get listed separately. The Night Witches, as far as I’ve researched, all have varying degrees of the same story, and to me, it feels like Lydia is the most interesting/representative of them. That said, I could probably stand to put in at least Marina Raskova and Nadezhda Popova, whose lives each took some interesting twists.
“But wait,” you say, “you DO have some groups listed on there instead of individuals!” This is true. Units like the Dahomey Amazons and the Order of the Hatchet, as far as I’ve been able to determine, do not have documented individuals that could represent the group, I’ve listed them because they’re awesome and I need to try to find a “princess” to draw from them as opposed to making one up. If I knew of a single person who could encompass their story, I’d use them instead. Seh-Hong-Dong-Beh from the Dahomeys doesn’t count, since her story’s pretty thin.
Lastly, if there’s a single person who has “sidekick” stories, I’ve tried to list those separately from the main entry, since they often get overlooked and I don’t want to forget them. I’m here thinking of people like Jhalkaribai, Le Chan, and Phung Thi Chinh.
Hope that makes things somewhat clearer.
(and thank you for sending in an ask as opposed to raging about it in reblogs. Tumblr is pretty terrible at helping me figure out when people are trying to talk to me.)