During WWII, the Soviet Union, which already had a tradition of women in combat, was the first nation to use women pilots. After suffering huge male battle casualties in 1941, the government ordered all women without children who were not already engaged in war work to join the military. There were three all-woman regiments: fighter, bomber, and night bomber. Other women flew with male regiments and pilot Valentina Grizodubova was even the commander of a 300-man, long-range bomber squadron.

A farewell kiss -A soldier kissing his daughter goodbye before he leaves Britain.

Ida B Wells, activist for African American and women’s rights

Recruiting poster for the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) during world War II | Illustration by John Falter, 1943

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917) The first woman to qualify as a doctor in Britain. She founded a hospital for poor women and children in London.

People of Upper Egypt. These are the faces of people that are remnants of the great civilization of the Pharaohs. Although you almost never see them in the modern Egyptian media, the original people are still there largely un-mixed and with separate culture. They have largely been squeezed out of the popular culture, but they are still proud and surviving.

German fighter pilot, Franz Stigler, and American bomber pilot, Charlie Brown, who met in the air on December 20, 1943. The badly damaged B-17 was a straggler, alone when Stigler came upon it in his Messerschmitt. Instead of shooting it down, Stigler escorted the defenseless bomber past German flak batteries to the North Sea, where he saluted Brown before turning back. Brown managed to nurse the crippled bomber back to safety. They met in 1990 and were friends until both died in 2008. Wow!

Lucy Stone - determined that men were reading the Bible in a way to suppress women, she worked her way through school to learn Greek and Latin to prove them wrong. Kept her last name, chopped her hair off, scandalously wore precursors to pants, was kicked out of church for arguing that women had the right to own property and to be able to divorce abusive alcoholic husbands. Considered a true radical for her time, she spoke in public frequently and headed multiple prominent womens organizatio...

Lydia Litvyak. One of two Russian pilots who were the world’s only female fighting aces during World War II. She kicked Nazi butt.

Edith Louisa Cavell - Was a British nurse who is celebrated for saving the lives of soldiers from all sides during World War I, for which she was arrested. She was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. Despite international pressure for mercy, she was shot by a German firing squad. Her execution received worldwide condemnation and extensive press coverage. She is well known for her statement that "patriotism is not enough. I can’t stop while there are lives to be saved."

"Mukhtar Mai is a Pakistani woman who, after being gang-raped, was expected to commit suicide. Instead, she prosecuted her attackers and used compensation money to start schools, a women's shelter and an organization to support women from around Pakistan. We have a chapter about her story in Half the Sky."

Lyudmila Pavlichenko, Soviet sniper during WWII. A student at the time, Pavlichenko was among the first to volunteer for the armed forced when the Soviet Union was invaded and declined the opportunity to serve as a nurse instead of a soldier so as to put her badass shooting talents to good use. She went on to record 309 kills, making her the most successful female sniper in history. After she was wounded in battle, Pavlichenko traveled to the United States.

Nightwitches - Female Russian bombers who bombed Germany during WW2. They had old, noisy planes & the engines used to conk out halfway through their missions, so they had to climb out on the wings mid-flight to restart the props. To stop Germans from hearing them & starting up the anti aircraft guns, they’d climb to a certain height, coast down to German positions, drop their bombs, restart their engines in midair & get the hell out of dodge. Their leader flew 200+ missions & was never captu...

Erich "Bubi" Hartmann, known as the Black Devil during World War II, was the greatest ace fighter pilot in the history of aviation with a credited 352 kills. Although he was forced to land his plane because of mechanical failure or damage from falling debris 14 times in his career, he was never shot down or forced to land due to enemy fire.

Eugene Bullard was the first African American military pilot to fly in combat and the only African American pilot to fly during WWI. Ironically he never flew for the United States, but rather for the Aéronautique Militaire in France.

Orli Wald was a member of the German Resistance in Nazi Germany. She was arrested in 1936 and charged with high treason, whereupon she served four and a half years in a women's prison, followed by "protective custody" in Nazi concentration camps until 1945, when she escaped. She was a prisoner functionary in the infirmary at Auschwitz-Birkenau and because of her helpfulness to Jewish and other prisoners, was called the "Angel of Auschwitz".

Victoria Woodhull was an American leader of the woman's suffrage movement and a woman of many firsts. She was the first woman to start a weekly newspaper, the first woman to operate a brokerage firm on Wall Street, and in 1872, she was the first female candidate for President of the United States.

About 1,100 young women flew military aircraft stateside during World War II as part of a program called Women Airforce Service Pilots — WASP for short. These civilian volunteers ferried and tested planes so male pilots could head to combat duty.

In one of the most infamous pictures of WWII, a member of the SS prepares to shoot a Jewish woman with her back to him, desperate to protect her child. A single bullet from his rifle was sufficient for both at such intimate range. I have read anecdotes that the shooter - a Hungarian Auxiliary - was drunk when he did this, and upon sobering up, was so horrified at his deed that he committed suicide. I feel no compassion for him.

Nadezhda Popova, celebrated Soviet ‘Night Witch’ aviator of World War II One of the first women pilots. Flew 852 runs

Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester: When her convoy was ambushed in Iraq she repelled at least 30 insurgents. She was honored for her exceptional tactics and actions and became the first woman to earn the Silver Medal for exceptional valor since World War II.