The Second World War was a total war, and women were pulled into it like never before. From spies to journalists to policy-makers, women played a vital role in the fight against totalitarianism. Anna Rosenberg was one of these women. As President Franklin Roosevelt’s wartime confidante, she exhorted American women to “keep things going, no matter what happens” and to take the men’s places in the shops and factories. In 1944, she was sent as a special emissary of President Roosevelt to Nazi-occupied Europe, where she collected data that would shape the G.I. Bill of Rights.
In The Confidante: The Untold Story of the Woman Who Helped Win WWII and Shape Modern America, Christopher C. Gorham tells the story of Anna Rosenberg’s impact on modern American history. He also looks at other women who made vital contributions to the war effort, such as the Jewish women resistance fighters in Hitler’s ghettos described in Judy Batalion’s The Light of Days, the pioneering journalists in Judith Mackrell’s The Correspondents, Virginia Hall, the American socialite who spied for the Allies in Sonia Purnell’s A Woman of No Importance, and the “comfort women” of Asia in C. Sarah Soh’s The Comfort Women. We also learn about the American women code breakers who helped win World War II in Liza Mundy’s Code Girls and the German women in the Nazi killing fields in Wendy Lower’s Hitler’s Furies.
These books uncover the stories of the brave women who did their part to fight totalitarianism during World War II. They remind us that while war is no longer confined to trenches and battlefields, women are still playing a vital role in the fight against injustice and oppression. As we remember the sacrifices of these women, we can also draw inspiration from their courage and resourcefulness.