Elizabeth Choy (1910-2006)
is considered a war heroine in Singapore. During World War II, she supplied
medicine and messages to POWs interned in Changi Prison during the Japanese
occupation of the island.
She was born in present-day Malaysia and went to
study in Singapore, after which she pursued a career in education. During the
war she served as a volunteer nurse with the Medical Auxiliary Service, as well
as a second lieutenant in the women’s auxiliary arm of the Singapore Volunteer
Corps. She delivered packages to the prisoners even at great risk to herself,
and received numerous honours for her humanitarian work, including being made a
member of the Order of the British Empire.
Suzanne Spaak (1905-1944) was a Belgian operative for the French Resistance during World War II. Her efforts helped save hundreds of people from certain death.
She was a wealthy and well-known woman in high circles around Brussels, and used this influence to collaborate with the French Resistance and the National Movement Against Racism in their humanitarian efforts. She saved hundreds of Jewish children from deportation, hiding many of them in her own house and arranging for them to be moved to safe countries. She was executed by the Gestapo in 1944, days before the liberation of Paris.
Evelyn Irons (1900-2000) was a
Scottish journalist who acted as a war correspondent during World War II. She
was the first woman to be decorated with the French Croix de Guerre for this
She was initially hired with the beauty
page of the Daily Mail, but chose to
report on the war as soon as it broke out. Despite objections regarding the
presence of female reporters on the battlefield, she was one of the first
journalists to reach liberated Paris, and the first female journalist to reach
Hitler’s Eagle Nest. In 1935, she became the first woman to be awarded the
Stanhope Gold Medal by the Royal Humane Society.
Hédi Fried (b. 1924) is a Jewish-Swedish
author and Holocaust survivor of Romanian origin. She survived the ordeal of
Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen before emigrating to Sweden with the help of the
In Sweden, she started
working as a psychologist, promoting education and tolerance in young people.
She wrote five autobiographical books detailing the horrors of the Holocaust.
She has won numerous cultural awards, and was named European of the Year in 1997.
Judith Kerr (b. 1923) is a British writer and illustrator. She is best known for her popular children’s books, such as The Tiger Who Came to Tea or the Mog series.
Born Jewish in Germany, she was forced to flee to Britain before the World War, an experience which inspired her novel When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. She worked for the Red Cross during the war, before becoming a writer. In 2012 she was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire for her service to children’s literature and Holocaust education.
Jeannie Rousseau (1919-2017) was an Allied spy during World War II. Her gathering of information on German activities helped save thousands of lives in the West.
She started gathering evidence even before becoming a spy, by being the top translator of the French chamber of commerce and regularly meeting with top military staff from Germany. She was captured twice and spent time in three different concentration camps, but survived the war and went on to work as an interpreter for the United Nations and other international agencies.
Opal Kunz (1894-1967) was an
early female aviator, who encouraged women to take up flying both through
extensive public appearances and by example. She was the first female aviator
to race against men in open competition, winning her very first race in 1930.
She was an organizer of the Betsy Ross Air Corps, a paramilitary service
which supported the Air Army Corps. Before the start of World War II, she
instructed hundreds of young men in flying.
Elsie Widdowson (1906-2000) was a
British dietitian who oversaw the addition of vitamins to wartime rations
across the United Kingdom. She studied chemistry at Imperial College, London,
graduating in 1928 as one of the first female students.
worked for the Department of Experimental Medicine in Cambridge, studying
nutrition and the chemical composition of the human body. She demonstrated that
a limited diet could be supported with added vitamins, which led to the
government programme of enriching wartime foods with calcium and other
nutrients. She also worked on rehabilitating the victims of extreme starvation
from Nazi concentration camps.