Sisters in the Resistance: How Women Fought to Free France, 1940-1945

Sisters in the Resistance: How Women Fought to Free France, 1940-1945

by Margaret Collins Weitz
     
 

Sisters in the Resistance "I was in my early twenties when the Germans invaded our country. To this day, when I read about a rape trial, I am reminded of the Occupation. This was really violation—violation of my country. It was impossible to remain passive." —Lucienne Guezennec In Sisters in the Resistance, noted scholar and historian Margaret Collins

Overview

Sisters in the Resistance "I was in my early twenties when the Germans invaded our country. To this day, when I read about a rape trial, I am reminded of the Occupation. This was really violation—violation of my country. It was impossible to remain passive." —Lucienne Guezennec In Sisters in the Resistance, noted scholar and historian Margaret Collins Weitz weaves a remarkable collection of first-person interviews into a unique oral history of the women who fought for the French Resistance. The result is a vivid portrait of defiance and endurance that captures the unsung heroism, quiet courage, and ultimate triumph of the women in "the army of the shadows." Candidly, calmly, and modestly, the women speak—many for the first time—about the driving forces behind their struggle, the ideals that motivated them, and the daily hardships and bitter realities of life in occupied France. It was a life of unimagined privations in which food, fuel, clothes, and other daily necessities were both scarce and rationed. Newspapers became precious insulation against the cold, and posters appeared on city streets warning the population about the dangers of eating rats. Yet, despite the exigencies of day-to-day existence, the women persevered, serving as couriers, translators, and medics, and they proved indispensable to the creation and distribution of the Resistance’s most effective weapon: the underground press. Sisters in the Resistance also reveals how and why women operatives often had a decided advantage over their male counterparts in clandestine operations. As the war intensified, the stakes grew higher, the risks greater. Living with the constant danger of discovery, there was no margin of error for the résistantes. Relentlessly pursued by the Gestapo and their collaborators, a slight lapse in judgment could lead to imprisonment, torture … or even death. During her research, Margaret Collins Weitz was given unprecedented access to volumes of previously classified materials and memoirs. As a result, Sisters in the Resistance offers fresh insights into the social and cultural fabric of occupied France, revealing the stifling paternalism and patriotic obsessions that would relegate these women’s contributions to the back pages of history for decades. It is a haunting, dramatic, and long overdue addition to the written history of the Second World War.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Both of these works join a growing body of literature on the French Resistance (see, for example, Claire Chevrillon's Code Name Christiane Clouet: A Woman in the French Resistance, LJ 5/1/95). Rougeyron's memoir, first published privately in 1947, recounts his experiences rescuing downed Allied airmen in France during the war years. An auto engineer and experimental race car driver before the war, he joined the Resistance after the Nazi occupation and organized a network of resisters who rescued, sheltered, and assisted British and American flyers. Rougeyron's memoir is translated by the wife of the first Allied airman whose escape he facilitated. In marked contrast to Rougeyron's personal story is Weitz's scholarly account, the first to research women's roles in the Resistance in a thorough and comprehensive way. In addition to utilizing the limited archival information available, Weitz (humanities and modern languages, Suffolk Univ.) has relied on interviews with more than 70 survivors of the Resistance, primarily women. Weitz places their dangerous and in many ways nontraditional activities against the backdrop of the Vichy regime's antifeminism and stresses the opportunities afforded by the Resistance for women both to change roles and to assume new roles in French society. She painstakingly demonstrates that women's presence in the Resistance was much greater than was believed or known at the time. Both works are recommended for specialists in the field.-Marie Marmo Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., N.J.
Margaret Flanagan
Weitz makes an important and unique contribution to the literature of the French Resistance and the history of World War II. Although countless studies have documented the heroic exploits of Resistance leaders during the course of World War II, few have focused on the pivotal role women played in the various underground organizations. Based on interviews with surviving resistants, this oral history contains the harrowing and often previously unrecorded testimony of a remarkable set of women. The author's sensitive narrative places these riveting anecdotes and reminiscences into proper historical and sociological context as she examines and analyzes the ever expanding duties and assignments undertaken by women as France's war-within-a-war continued to rage. An absolutely stunning and compelling chronicle of dauntless courage and unflagging patriotism.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780471126768
Publisher:
Wiley
Publication date:
12/01/1995
Pages:
368
Product dimensions:
6.54(w) x 9.60(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

MARGARET COLLINS WEITZ is Chairman of the Department of Humanities and Modern Languages at Suffolk University in Boston, and is a Senior Affiliate at Harvard. She is the author of Femmes: Recent Writing on French Women, coeditor of Behind the Lines: Gender and the Two World Wars, and has written numerous articles about women in France.

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