Women’s World War 2 Memorials

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All wars change the lives of those they touch, but nothing was as transformative and revolutionary as the Second World War, particularly for women. Traditionally, women’s roles were confined to the house and the farm, but when the war began many women found their roles, opportunities and responsibilities expanded. While the men went off to fight the war, women were called upon to fill positions that were reserved for men. They made bombs and aircrafts in factories, drove trucks, served as air raid wardens and as nurses, worked in communications, intelligence, and emergency services, and performed hundreds of other clerical duties that provided critical support to the war effort. New positions created by scientific and technological advances that didn’t even exist before the war began were taken on by women. By the end of the war, there were few noncombatant jobs in which women did not serve. But that wasn’t all. Thousands of women joined the combat through the local resistance, smuggled supplies and information and sabotaged enemy movements. Many brave women earned medals throughout the war and some even died in service of their country.


A monument to the Women of World War 2 in London. Photo credit: Willard/Flickr

Since the war ended, seventy years ago, hundreds of memorials have been erected all around the world dedicated to the brave men and women who served in the war, but only a handful of them commemorate women exclusively. Here are those memorials.

Monument to the Women of World War II, London

The Monument to the Women of World War II, located in Whitehall in London, is the first and only one of its kind in the United Kingdom. It was erected only in 2005, sixty years too late, but other memorials that pay tribute to women of the world war aren’t too early either.

The memorial in London is a big, black, block made of bronze 22 feet high, 16 feet long and 6 feet wide. The sides of the block are sculpted with 17 individual sets of clothing and uniforms worn by women during the war symbolizing the hundreds of different jobs women undertook.


Photo credit: Kevin Christopher Burke/Flickr


Photo credit: Rose Davis/Flickr

Women in Military Service for America Memorial

The Women in Military Service for America Memorial is dedicated not just to women of the Second World War but to all women who served in the U.S. armed forces till the present times. The memorial is located at the western end of Memorial Avenue at the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia. The structure inside which the memorial is housed is known as the Hemicycle, and was originally built in 1932 to be a ceremonial entrance to the cemetery. It never served this purpose, and after lying idle for more than fifty years, the site was chosen for the memorial in 1988.

The main gallery of the memorial contains displays about women in the U.S. armed forces, the role they played, and quotes about and from women veterans, as well as actual names and pictures of some women. There is also a theater and auditorium where patrons can watch films which document the roles women have played in the U.S. armed forces.


Photo credit: womensmemorialstore.com

Violette Szabo GC Museum

Violette Szabo was a Special Operations Executive agent, one of hundreds who served during the Second World War. Violette was sent into occupied France twice. The first time she returned safely but the second time she was captured and deported to Germany where she was eventually executed at Ravensbrück concentration camp. Violette was the first woman to be awarded the George Cross, the highest civilian award for bravery, usually regarded as the equivalent to the Victoria Cross. She was also awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French.

A museum dedicated to Violette Szabo is located in Herefordshire, in England, in a house that Violette's English cousins formerly owned. She also has a bronze bust at the Albert Embankment of the River Thames. Other plaques and memorials with her name are located in France.


Violette Szabo’s bust in London. Photo credit: Chalkstream/Flickr


The humble museum of Violette Szabo. Photo credit: Tigercoco/Panoramio

Memorials to Comfort Women

During the war, the Imperial Japanese Army forced thousands of women into sexual slavery to service the soldiers. They were called “comfort women”. Young women from the Japanese-occupied Asian countries were abducted from their homes. In many cases, women were also lured with promises of work in factories or restaurants, and then coerced into sexual slavery in military brothels in foreign lands. Girls were raped and beaten day and night. Those who became pregnant were forced to have abortions. Those who didn’t comply were executed. Approximately three quarters of comfort women died, and most survivors were left infertile due to sexual trauma or sexually transmitted diseases.


Women's Active Museum on War and Peace, chronicles the experiences of these comfort women. The museum is located in Tokyo, Japan. Photo credit: wam-peace.org


The Peace Monument is located outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul. It consist of a bronze statue of a barefoot, seated girl, depicting a Korean comfort girl. The statue was placed there in 2011, as a part of a weekly protest held in Korea every Wednesday in front of the Embassy of Japan in Seoul, seeking justice from the Japanese government regarding the large scale sexual slavery during the war. Photo credit: typehost.com


A replica of the Peace Monument in Seoul, sits at a public park in northern Los Angeles suburb of Glendale. Erected in 2013, it’s a simple statue of an Asian girl sitting in a chair with an empty chair beside her. Beside that chair is a plaque that reads: “I was a sex slave of (the) Japanese military.” Photo credit: LA Times


War & Women's Human Rights Museum, in Seoul, South Korea. Photo credit: thesoulofseoul.net


War & Women's Human Rights Museum, in Seoul, South Korea. Photo credit: thesoulofseoul.net


Comfort Women Memorial in Palisades Park, New Jersey, USA. Photo credit: www.northjersey.com


Comfort Women monument in Veterans Memorial, Eisenhower Park, New York, USA. Photo credit: www.kapacusa.org


Comfort Women Memorial Peace Garden, in Fairfax, Virginia, USA. Photo credit: news.xinhuanet.com


Comfort women museum in Nanjing, China. Photo credit: China News Service

See more comfort women memorials at peace.maripo.com

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