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CSS Dixieland

Probing the depths of knowledge

These essays by P. A. Stonemann, CSS Dixieland, cover a wide range of historical, philosophical, scientifical and technical subjects. Each page deals with a particular topic, divided into sections and explained by itself. Every page shows at its top hyper links to every other page. The Start page also has short descriptions of the other pages. CSS Dixieland expresses gratitude to the readers that make this work meaningful.

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Heroic Women page

Fierce Women who fought, killed, or died, for what they believed
Their admirable Courage dispels the fallacy of the 'weak' sex
Strong inpiration for every Idealist to follow their example

Walkyrie who takes our dead heroes to Walhalla in Asgard
Walkyrie who takes our dead heroes to Walhalla in Asgard.
Wagner Frost Illustration

Sections in this page

  Introduction: The Outstanding Heroine
  Second World War in Italy: Feminine Heroines
  Bibliography
  Hyper links

Technical note: In languages other than English or Latin, but which use mainly Latin characters, some characters are taken from other alphabets, or some Latin characters are modified with diacritic marks for representing different phonemic sounds or other orthographic conventions of those languages. Those characters, when used in this document, have been encoded as entities of Hyper Text Mark-up Language or sometimes in Unicode UTF-8. Therefore computers using other character encodings may render some characters inaccurately, but hopefully, it will still be possible to read non-English words without too much difficulty.

Legal note: All records offered here from the server of CSS Dixieland are well over fifty years old, some records are over a hundred years old. They are all believed to be in the Public Domain, therefore readers are invited to download them if they wish and they have the means to do so. For this purpose, information is provided on running time, storage size and audio or video format of each record. Hyper links to external servers may point to records still protected by authoral rights. In this case playing the record is usually permitted, but downloading or distribution may not be permitted. Readers are advised to check conditions from external servers, as it is not the responsibility of CSS Dixieland to warn the reader of the highly diverse legal permissions maintained by external servers.

 

Introduction: The Outstanding Heroine

The fallacy of the 'weak' sex

Women Fighters exist and have existed everywhere and everywhen, from Ancient History to recent times. More than one skeptic will discover unmistakable evidence that the romantic notion of the 'defenceless weak lady' is only a false masculine perception. A rôle that some ladies perform very well, and that most women feel inclined to play at one time or another, because they know that it elicits a strong instinct of protection in the gentleman. Nonetheless, it is inaccurate to see women in that passive, 'home-bound' attitude. Even the supposedly weakest woman will fight like a lioness for defending her child, or she will sacrifice herself for saving her baby from an imminent danger, because she also has a very strong instinct of protection to her offspring. Such are the rules that Nature has impressed on them.

The purpose of this page is to show that, besides the usual traits of the feminine character that have been more or less recognised world-wide and throughout History, women can also have a heroic side. The examples given will not refer to the well known cases that adorn newspaper pages, of women who confront peril for saving their beloved ones, and who may be badly hurt, or perish, as the result of their devotion and love. The examples here will deal with a comparatively less obvious aspect: women who chose to fight, to kill, or to die, defending the Ideal in which they deeply believed. For it is not only the gentleman who can be or become a man-at-arms, the lady can be or become a woman-at-arms as well. It will be made clear, with ample historical evidence, that the prowess of a woman can be as terrible as that of a man.

The difference is mainly quantitative, rather than qualitative. Statistically speaking, there have been many more warrying men than warrying women in most societies, exception made of a few ancient or primitive matriarchal societies, or of some specific situations where the lack of men forced women to take the defensive rôle. The intelligent reader may ask why this fact has been so. The cause cannot be merely 'cultural', because the numerical predominance of the fighting male and the comparative rarity of the fighting female has been present everywhere and everywhen, save the few cases mentioned above. Thus, the real cause is biological. In spite of all historical, statistical, or other unmistakable evidence, modern liberal cranks tend to 'forget' that the biological background has a tremendous weight in most individuals. It may be later shaped by the cultural milieu, and in very few, outstanding individuals of a philosophical disposition, by their own, unique internal thinking, but the influence of biological factors such as species, race, age, health or sex is evident to every intelligent observer, and it simply CANNOT be denied.

Genetical inheritance is one of the main causes

Although environmental influences are a major factor, biological ones are of no lesser importance. Apart from those very few cases of philosophical genius, the vast majority of individuals are a result of both, the pervading influence of their age and country, and also their genetical inheritance. This is a fact beyond any shadow of doubt. Species, race, age, sex, health or lack of it, and a few other biological considerations, leave observable traits not only in the physical or the physiological aspects, but in the mental and moral ones too. Therefore, in general, the dog cannot behave like the cat, or the old like the young, the woman like the man, the weak like the strong, or the nigger like the white. They are 'Ellos y su circunstancia' (Themselves and their circumstance), paraphrasing Spanish philosopher Don José Ortega y Gasset.

Individual exceptions exist, when considering one aspect or two in isolation, but extremely rare they are when considering a whole set of characteristics. It is illustrative to compare human societies of different times and places, more to compare different races, and even more to compare different species. A comparison of Homo sapiens sapiens with other animal species would take too long here, although such comparisons have been made at different taxonomical levels: inside Genus Homo, Family Hominidae, Order Primata, Class Mammalia, or in relation to taxons to which Cromagnensis is more distanly related in the generally accepted cladogramme. Much of this is available in Internet. As for comparison of different races of the only surviving species of Genus Homo, interested readers will have an excellent introduction with our page on racial studies:

Aryan Race page

Finally, it remains the comparison of different human societies to one another. This would fill entire books. Examples in this document refer only to women, not because women be arguably 'inferior' and thus deserving a kind of protection or compensation by mentioning only feminine exploits and not masculine ones (which is a wrong attitude typical of stupid conservatives), and not because women be supposedly 'superior' and thus the only ones really meriting focused attention (which is a much worse attitude typical of dishonest liberals and fact-distorting feminists). Examples refer only to women simply because, from the statistical point of view, women soldiers have been a minority in most places and times of History, when compared to their masculine counterparts.

This is to say that men and women are not necessarily inferior or superior to each other. It all depends on what separate aspects we consider. Observed as a whole, they are simply different and remarkably complementary. The wisdom of Nature is at play in the characteristics of the two sexes. Men soldiers have almost always been more numerous, and their feats fill books of History. On the contrary, women at war have been very uncommon, and their feats (although not inferior in importance) are rarely mentioned, or they are mentioned with the patronising condescendence of conservatives, or with the defiant, fake, offensive distortion of liberals and feminists. The reader will not see those positions here, neither the conservative, nor the liberal or feminist ones.

By perusing the text, and by following hyper links or references, the serious reader will get an accurate picture of the military side of women. Uncommon, but not less military just because of being uncommon. Readers are invited to send comments, or to indicate other relevant references in published books or in Internet. Readers are strongly discouraged of indulging in stereotypical conservative notions of the 'homely woman', or in the super-compensating and blatantly false liberal-feminist notions of the 'liberated woman'. See men or women as what they can be: women can be soldiers, and a few women can be good soldiers. Also men can be soldiers, and only a few men can be good soldiers...

 

Second World War in Italy: Feminine Heroines

Walkyrien who take our dead heroes to Walhalla in Asgard
Walkyrien who take our dead heroes to Walhalla in Asgard

 

Battaglioni della Morte This is the War Song of Fascist Italy par excellence. The Camicie Nere (Black Shirts) of the Fascii Italiani di Combattimento (Italian Groups of Combat), founded by Benito Mussolini in March 1919, fought against the Red militia in Italy 1919-1922. With the Fascist State already in power in Italy since 30th October 1922, the Black Shirts fought in Abyssinia 1935-1936, Spain 1936-1939, during the Second World War in Albania 1939, France 1940, East and North Africa 1940-1943, Greece, Balkans, Ukraine and Russia 1940-1945, then again in Italy 1943-1945, defending with courage and enthusiasm the Fascist Ideal in which they deeply believed, until death claimed those Roman Heroes, women or men, young or old, to Eternal Glory.

Battaglioni della Morte, interpreted by Francesco Albanese
Running time: 198 seconds. Storage size: 2.3 Megabytes. Audio format: Motion Picture Expert Group, Layer Three
patriotic-italy-fascio-francesco_albanese-battaglioni_della_morte.mp3

Battaglioni del Duce, battaglioni
della morte creati per la vita
a Primavera s'apre la partita
i continenti fanno fiamme e fior
per vincere ci vogliono i leoni
di Mussolini armati di valor

Battaglioni della morte
battaglioni della vita
ricomincia la partita
senza l'odio non c'è amor
'M' rossa uguale sorte
fiocco nero alla squadrista
noi la morte l'abbiam vista
con due bombe e in bocca un fior

Battaglioni della morte
battaglioni della vita
ricomincia la partita
senza l'odio non c'è amor
'M' rossa uguale sorte
fiocco nero alla squadrista
noi la morte l'abbiam vista
con due bombe e in bocca un fior

Contro l'oro c'è il sangue e fa la storia
contro i ghetti profumano i giardini
sul mondo batte il cuor di Mussolini
a Marizai il buon seme germogliò
nel clima di battaglia e di vittoria
la fiamma nera a ottobre divampò

Contro Giuda e contro l'oro
sarà il sangue a far la storia
ti daremo la vittoria, Duce
o l'ultimo respir
battaglioni del Lavoro
battaglioni della fede
vince sempre chi più crede
chi più a lungo sa patir

Contro Giuda e contro l'oro
sarà il sangue a far la storia
ti daremo la vittoria, Duce
o l'ultimo respir
battaglioni del Lavoro
battaglioni della fede
vince sempre chi più crede
chi più a lungo sa patir

Heroic Ladies of Fascist Italy: historical background

During the Second World War Italy was part of the Axis Powers, together with Germany, Japan, and various other nations in Europe and in Asia. Things were not going well for Italy in mid 1943, which had already lost Eritrea, Italian Somaliland and Abyssinia mainly to British Forces, and to Oromo, Somalian or Ethyopian nationalist guerrillas. Later, Italy had lost Lybia and then Sicily to British and United States Forces. Peninsular Italy was under threat.

In such difficulties, Dino Grandi and other Fascist leaders summoned the Gran Consiglio del Fascismo (Grand Council of Fascism) for plenary session on 24th July 1943. The Council was divided on what actions to take, but some members boldly proposed the destitution of Duce Benito Mussolini. Speeches were made in defence of the Duce or against him, and finally votes were cast during the night from 24th to 25th July 1943. The votation gave a predominant result of distrust. The Grand Council of Fascism declared the Duce deposed of power.

Mussolini thought that the Grand Council had gone too far. The institution had been founded in 1923, and Mussolini rightly saw it as what it was: merely a consulting organ, not invested of judicial, legislative or executive powers. The Duce said that such a decision could not be taken by that assembly, that the Grand Council could only recommend options, not give orders. That legal self-assurance deceived the Duce. So, an unconcerned Mussolini went to sleep for the night, believing that he would continue in the morning working for Fascist Italy from his post as Chief of Government. It was a big blunder, because the traitors made good use of those precious hours. They were not worried about legal formalities.

King Vittorio Emmanuel saw things differently from Mussolini, or he said that he did. His Majesty burst into action immediately, and during the night he mustered his loyals and tried to secure the hesitating ones. In the morning, 25th July 1943, Mussolini arrived to his work place at the Government Palace, as it was his daily habit. At once, a strong squad of the Police presented to him a document with the Royal Seal, and informed the Duce that he was deposed AND ALSO ARRESTED by order of the King. Mussolini was very quickly taken away before any serious reaction could spring from his loyal Fascist Comrades.

His Majesty at once invested power in General Pietro Badoglio. In an official communication, the new Government declared that Mussolini was under custody 'for his own safety'. The Fascist Party was outlawed, and some other members were arrested or closely watched, but no move was initially made against the military alliance with Germany and the other Axis Powers. In retrospect, it is clear that the King already distrusted the Duce, and the meeting of the Grand Council came very handy as only a pretext for getting rid of Mussolini.

Soon, King Vittorio Emmanuel and General Badoglio began approaching the British Government and other Allied Powers by means of secret envoys, with the intention of turning Italy against the Axis. For increased security in their evil plans, Mussolini was taken from one fortress to another, as a dangerous prisoner. From Roma he was taken to Ponza, then to Maddalena. He was finally put in the Gran Sasso under strong guard of the Carabinieri.

But not strong enough for German military efficiency. On 12th September 1943 a dare German commando led by SS Major Otto Skorzeny performed an impressive feat, landing by parachute on the spot (the top of a mountain) and liberating Benito Mussolini in a matter of minutes. Shortly after his amazing liberation, the Duce founded the Italian Social Republic and declared traitors those who had acted against the Fascist State. Some of the traitors, known as the 'Vinticinqluglisti' ('Those of the 25th of July'), who included Count Galeazzo Ciano, ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs and related to the family of Mussolini, received death punishment by decision of the Court of Verona. Italian and German Forces, with some volunteers from other nations, for a long time kept at bay the British, United States and other invaders who had massed huge amounts of soldiers and military material onto Italian soil. Many skirmishes and some major epic battles were fought.

The Feminine Auxiliary Service

On 18th April 1944 the Government of the Repubblica Social Italiana (Italian Social Republic) led by Duce Benito Mussolini, organised in Torino the Corpo Femminile Volontario per i Servizi Ausiliari delle Forze Armate Repubblicane (Voluntary Feminine Corps for the Auxiliary Service of the Republican Armed Forces), shortly known as Servizio Ausiliario Femminile (Feminine Auxiliary Service), which became part of the Esercito Nazionale Repubblicano (Republican National Army), itself part of the Forze Armate Repubblicane (Republican Armed Forces) commanded by Maresciallo d'Italia (Marshall of Italy) Rodolfo Graziani, Ministro della Guerra (Minister of War).

The Command was entrusted to Generale di Brigata (Brigadier General) Piera Gatteschi Fondelli, the only woman in Italy with the military rank of General, and who already was the National Inspectress of the Fasci di Combattimento Femminili (Feminine Groups of Combat). The Headquarters of the Feminine Auxiliary Service were first located in Venezia, and in 1945 in Como. The enlisting and training of volunteer women began in Torino in 1944, under the responsibility of the Partito Fascista Repubblicano (Republican Fascist Party) commanded by Alessandro Pavolini. In total, about six thousand women helped the war effort as part of this all-feminine corps.

For military operations the feminine auxiliaries served under the Forze Armate Repubblicane (Republican Armed Forces) or under the Guardia Nazionale Repubblicana (Republican National Guard). The Infermiere Ausiliarie (Auxiliary Nurses, also known as 'Sorelline'), were ranked as Sergeants and were part of the Croce Rossa Repubblicana (Republican Red Cross). Auxiliary Nurses wore blue uniform (other Auxiliaries wore green, other Nurses wore white). All these outstanding Auxiliary women formed many combat groups, twenty-two provincial military units, and these six national military units:

-I Corso 'Italia' (Lido di Venezia, 1st May 1944)
-II Corso 'Roma' (Lido di Venezia, 1st July 1944)
-III Corso 'Brigate Nere' (Lido di Venezia, later Como, 31st August 1944)
-IV Corso 'Giovinezza' (Como, 5th November 1944)
-V Corso 'Fiamma' (Como, 1st January 1945)
-VI Corso 'XVIII Aprile' (Como, 1st March 1945)

The Feminine Auxiliary Service used military ranks equivalent to those of the Republican Armed Forces of the Italian Social Republic:

-SAF Comandante Generale: Generale di Brigata (General Commander: Brigadier General)
-SAF Vice-Comandante Generale: Colonnello (Vice-General Commander: Colonel)
-SAF Ispettrice: Tenente Colonnello (Inspectress: Lieutenant Colonel)
-SAF Comandante Provinciale: Capitano (Provincial Commander: Captain)
-SAF Vice-Comandante Provinciale: Tenente (Vice-Provincial Commander: Lieutenant)
-SAF Comandante di Gruppo: Sottotenente (Group Commander: Sub-Lieutenant)
-SAF Vice-Comandante di Gruppo: Alferece (Vice-Group Commander: Ensign)
-SAF Capo Nucleo: Maresciallo (Chief of Nucleus: First Sergeant)
-SAF Vice-Capo Nucleo: Sergente (Vice-Chief of Nucleus: Sergeant)
-SAF Sorellina: Sergente (Auxiliary Nurse: Sergeant)
-SAF Ausiliaria Scelta: Caporale (Outstanding Auxiliary: Corporal)
-SAF Ausiliaria: Soldato (Auxiliary: Private)

The Sorelline (Auxiliary Nurses) normally wore blue uniform, but they wore green uniform (as the other Auxiliaries) when not being on medical duty. The Auxiliary Nurses never wore white uniform, as other Nurses did.

The rank of Major does not appear listed, from Lieutenant Colonel the rank goes down to Captain. Translations are literal, and of course approximate as an indication of military rank, since hierarchical structures are different. Thus, 'Maresciallo' has been translated as 'First Sergeant', but 'Maresciallo d'Italia' as 'Marshall of Italy' (rank of Rodolfo Graziani, Minister of War).

The Italian title of 'Duce' for Benito Mussolini admits of no easy translation, as neither the Romanian title of 'Conducatore' for Ion Antonescu, the Spanish title of 'Caudillo' for Francisco Franco, or the German title of 'Führer' for Adolf Hitler. They may be understood as 'Leader, Guide, Head', meaning Head of Government (Antonescu, Hitler until the incapacitation and natural death of Hindenburg in 1934, Mussolini until his arrest in July 1943), or Head of State (Hitler from August 1934, Franco from October 1936, Mussolini from September 1943).

Sharp-shooter soldier woman, Fascist Italy
Sharp-shooter soldier woman, Fascist Italy. Many of these heroines not only took weapons to defend their Fatherland against invaders and traitors, they also learnt how to use those weapons efficiently, which bears witness to the fact that females are also to be feared in a resolute fight.

Condecorations

At least thirteen Italian women warriors received military condecorations, among whom were these four examples of authentic Feminine Valour:

-Gold Medal: Auxiliary Franca Barbier (fallen at Champorcher on 25th July 1944)
-Gold Medal: Auxiliary Angelina Milazzo (fallen at Garbagnate on 21st January 1945)
-Silver Medal: Auxiliary Silvia Polettini (fallen at Rovigo on 20th January 1945)
-Bronze Medal: Auxiliary Nurse Mariella Togna (for her exemplary conduct at the war fronts of Central Italy from 12th May to 6th June 1944, and of North Italy from August 1944 to March 1945)

The first Female Heroines of the Feminine Auxiliary Service fallen in action were Rosa Annibali, Maria Centazzo, Santina Scapat, Teresa Mender and Rosina Marchioli, who fell on 26th July 1944 (the day after the shameful execution of Franca Barbier, see below). Their deaths resulted of the terrorist attack against the Headquarters of the Republican Fascist Party in Venezia.

Canta Giovinezza In the glorious days when those Roman Walkyries took hold of their weapons and engaged in fierce struggle, their feminine voices inspired strong encouragement to their masculine Comrades, with the singing of their Women's War March:

Canta Giovinezza
Translated by P. A. Stonemann, CSS Dixieland

Canta, giovinezza, la canzon del cuore
    Sing, youth, the song of the heart

presa dall'ebbrezza e da un comune ardore
    inspired by a common ardour and fierce heat

è la Patria amata
    it is the beloved Fatherland

che rinasce alata
    who is reborn with wings

la Patria che di luce splende ancora
    the Fatherland who now shines with splendid light

noi ci recheremo in guerra
    we are fighting in the war

se la Patria lo vorrà
    as it is the will of the Fatherland

morirem su nostra terra
    we shall die on our own land

e se l'Italia vice
    and if Italy be victorious

bello pur sarà
    more beautiful it will have been

è nata dal dolore
    it is born out of pain

nel cuore la fiamma ardente
    in the heart the ardent flame

che le ali ci darà
    that everything will give

è la nostra prima guerra
    we women are the first at war

lo giuriam, si vincerà !
    our oath is to die, or to win !

Giovinezza This is the National Anthem of Fascist Italy. It has had various versions, of which the best known are the Original Version of 1922 (one of the oldest Fascist songs, together with 'All'Armi'), the Version of the Arditi, and the Version of the Italian Social Republic.

Giovinezza, Versione Originale del 1922

Su, compagni in forti schiere
marciam verso l'avvenire
siam falangi audaci e fiere
pronte a osare, pronte a ardire
trionfi alfine l'ideale
per cui tanto combattemmo
fratellanza nazionale
d'italiana civiltà

Giovinezza, Giovinezza, primavera di bellezza
nel Fascismo è la salvezza della nostra libertà

Non più ignava nè avvilita
resti ancor la nostra gente
si ridesti a nuova vita
di splendore più possente
su, leviamo alta la faccia
che c'illumini il cammino
nel lavoro e nella pace
sia la verà libertà

Giovinezza, Giovinezza, primavera di bellezza
nel Fascismo è la salvezza della nostra libertà

Nelle veglie di trincea
cupo vento di mitraglia
ci ravvolse alla bandiera
che agitammo alla battaglia
vittoriosa al nuovo sole
stretti a lei dobbiam lottare
è l'Italia che lo vuole
per l'Italia vincerem

Giovinezza, Giovinezza, primavera di bellezza
nel Fascismo è la salvezza della nostra libertà

Sorgi alfin lavoratore
giunto è il dì della riscossa
ti frodarono il sudore
con l'appello alla sommossa
giù le bende ai traditori
che ti strinsero a catena
alla gogna gl'impostori
delle asiatiche virtù

Giovinezza, Giovinezza, primavera di bellezza
nel Fascismo è la salvezza della nostra libertà

Giovinezza, Versione degli Arditi, interpreted by Benjamino Gigli, recorded in 1937
Running time: 205 seconds. Storage size: 2.4 Megabytes. Audio format: Motion Picture Expert Group, Layer Three
patriotic-italy-fascio-benjamino_gigli-giovinezza-1937.mp3

Salve o popolo di eroi
salve o Patria Immortale
son rinati i figli tuoi
con la fe' nell'ideale
il valor dei tuoi guerrieri
la virtù dei pionieri
la vision dell'Alighieri
oggi brilla in tutti i cuor

Giovinezza, Giovinezza, primavera di bellezza
della vita nell'asprezza, il tuo canto squilla e va

Dell'Italia nei confini
son rifatti gli Italiani
li ha rifatti Mussolini
per la guerra di domani
per la gloria del lavoro
per la pace e per l'alloro
per la gogna di coloro
che la Patria rinnegar

Giovinezza, Giovinezza, primavera di bellezza
della vita nell'asprezza, il tuo canto squilla e va

I poeti e gli artigiani
i signori e i contadini
con orgoglio di Italiani
giuran fede a Mussolini
non v'è povero quartiere
che non mandi le sue schiere
che non spieghi le bandiere
del Fascismo redentor

Giovinezza, Giovinezza, primavera di bellezza
della vita nell'asprezza, il tuo canto squilla e va
Giovinezza, Giovinezza, primavera di bellezza
della vita nell'asprezza, il tuo canto squilla e va

Giovinezza, Versione della Repubblica Sociale Italiana (dopo il tradimento dell 8 Settembre 1943)
Running time: 196 seconds. Storage size: 8.4 Megabytes. Video format: Motion Picture Expert Group, Layer Four
patriotic-italy-fascio-giovinezza_rsi.mp4

Allorche dalla trincea
suona l'ora di battaglia
sempre prima e fiamma nera
che terribile si scaglia
col pugnale nella mano
con la fede dentro il cuore
che s'avanza e va lontano
con la gloria ed il valor

Giovinezza, Giovinezza, primavera di bellezza
della vita nell'asprezza, il tuo canto squilla e va
per Benito Mussolini eja eja alala

Col pugnale e con la bomba
nella vita del terrore
quando l'obice rimbomba
non mi trema in petto il cuore
la mia splendida bandiera
de magnifico colore
e una fiamma tutta nera
che divampa in ogni cuor

Giovinezza, Giovinezza, primavera di bellezza
della vita nell'asprezza, il tuo canto squilla e va
per Benito Mussolini eja eja alala

Del pugnale il fiero lampo
della bomba il gran fragore
tutti avanti tutti al campo
qui si vince oppur si muore
sono giovane son forte
non mi trema in petto il cuore
che sorrida con la morte
nella strada del dolor

Giovinezza, Giovinezza, primavera di bellezza
della vita nell'asprezza, il tuo canto squilla e va
per Benito Mussolini eja eja alala

As of 18th April 1945 the Brave Females of the Feminine Auxiliary Service had suffered twenty-five dead, eight seriously wounded, many with relatively less serious injuries, and seven missing in action. After the dissolution of the Italian Social Republic on 25th April 1945, a number of those Heroines fell victim to the hatred and malevolence of Communist partisans, being abused with violence, dishonour, or murder.

The number of those Martyrs has not been exactly documented, but it is estimated to have been round three hundred. Only in the city of Torino there were eighteen murdered in the first days after 25th April 1945. The sad and shameful martyrdom of those Idealist Women can be read at the hyper links on the Feminine Auxiliary Service listed below in this page.

Their legacy will for ever remain in our hearts. One of the most impressive of those Aryan Goddesses was Franca Barbier, who received the Gold Medal to Military Courage because of her exemplary heroism. This is her incredible history, which inspires us to keep our struggle and not surrender in these times of liberal 'equality' and racial mongrelism.

Franca Barbier, Servizio Ausiliario Femminile. Medaglia d'Oro al Valor Militare

Ausiliaria Franca Barbier, Gold Medal to Military Valour, Fascist Italy
Ausiliaria Franca Barbier
Gold Medal to Military Valour, Fascist Italy

The Republican Fascist Franca Barbier was the most distinguished Member of the Feminine Auxiliary Service, in the National Army of the Italian Social Republic. Because of her high intelligence, she was entrusted with difficult and dangerous missions for the Secret Service. Having been captured by the enemy, her intense Idealism made her prefer Death with Honour instead of life with shame. She confronted her doom with unsurpassed Courage, and received in Her Memory the Gold Medal to Military Valour. This is her incredible history of devoted Abnegation and of exemplary Patriotism.

Franca Barbier had received the delicate mission of infiltrating bases of Communist Partisans located in the high Alpine mountain passes. For a time she provided valuable information to the Military Authorities of the Italian Social Republic, but having gone in her enthusiastic zeal beyond the advice of prudence and of the Call of Duty, she was recognised for what she really was: a Fascist spy. In mid July 1944 she was made prisoner near Champorcher.

In those troubled days there was no such a thing as 'a trial'. When either of the two sides captured an enemy, the fate of the unfortunate rested entirely in the hands of the group commander. The decision was, nearly always, death. Franca Barbier was a young woman of astonishing beauty and strong charm. At only 21 years of age, she was gifted with a marked personality that must have made her captors doubt as to what should be done in her case. After much talk and little deliberation, the minions of Palmiro Togliatti and Josef Stalin decided that she would be offered life in return for becoming double agent.

So, cheerfully they communicated the 'good news' to her. She would be spared, and the only task she had to do was to continue passing 'information' to her superiors, but from now on it would be filtered information, partly true and partly false (true for minor details, so as to make the reports credible, but false for valuable military data). They congratulated one another for having been so 'intelligent' and having found a 'solution' that would preserve the life of the impressive prisoner. Karl Marx would have been proud of them.

But those marionettes of Moscow did not count with the stern resolution of the Courageous Italian Bella Donna. She looked at them with scorn, and she simply said one word: 'NO'. Of open mouth the bastards were left. They endeavoured to reason with her, they justified themselves and their difficult position, they implored her, finally they begged her for her own life. Still the Roman Walkyrie was unmoved. With Spartan decision, she briefly repeated her laconic answer: 'NO'. Of course she knew that, once unmasked, she could not continue reporting on Communist activities. Yet, she would not dishonour her Oath of Allegiance to the Italian Social Republic and her deep belief in the Fascist Cause. She made it clear that, whatever they did, she would not throw shame upon her by forswearing herself. Death was preferable to violating her Oath.

The reader is invited to meditate about her unbreakable convictions. Most, in even a less serious predicament, would have chosen to be traitors. Kings have been known to break their word. For instance Juan Carlos de Bourbon, who had sworn loyalty to the Fundamental Principles of the Patriotic Movement led in Spain by General Franco, but who short time after the death of the gullible Caudillo in 1975, threw his adoptive country into chaos. Every traitor finds a pretext. That dishonourable 'king' fooled many stupids into thinking that Spain 'needed' a representative 'democracy'. Franca Barbier could have fooled her not-too-bright guardians. She might have 'self-justified' her conscience into thinking that, extremely intelligent as she was, she would find means of avoiding damage to her true beliefs. Instead, she chose clear-cut HONESTY.

The leader of the Partisan band, Cesare Olietti, saw no other choice but to pronounce her condemnation to capital punishment. On 24th July 1944 the Brave Roman Goddess was informed of her doom, and given pencil and paper for penning her last words. She wrote to her mother, and it must be nobly said in honour of those men without honour, that the precious letter arrived to the trembling hands of the old woman, and through her, to the lasting Memory of Posterity. The following morning the Summer skies of Italy contemplated the superior beauty, the solemn countenance of that Daughter of Vesta... for the last time. Facing the firing squad, her beautiful eyes looking squarely at her executors, she had the Courage of extending her arm in Roman Salute, gazing now the Walhalla that would soon receive her, and yelling in her feminine and strong voice:

Viva l'Italia ! Viva il Duce ! (Long live Italy ! Long live the Duce !)

The group leader ordered fire, but the outlaws of his Partisan band hesitated and looked to one another in indecision. The son of a bitch insisted, but the Red militia shook their heads in doubt. Fury and threats of the criminal leader, but his minions still refused to kill the young woman. Mumbling insults to his subordinates, the disobeyed gangster (an ex-First Sergeant of the Italian Army) had himself to approach to the Saluting Walkyrie, and pointing his pistol to the back of her lovely neck, nervous, unsure of himself... he finally pulled the trigger. Deep consternation was the feeling of those who saw the epic scene.

Her Heroic Death is a source of inspiration. An excellent example of how a True Woman prefers sacrifice instead of a life void of purpose. "La vida sólo merece ser vivida en la lucha por un Ideal" (Life only deserves to be lived in the fight for an Ideal), in the words of a man who also courageously faced the firing squad, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, Founder of Falange Española. The remnants of the Heroine Franca Barbier were exhumed over two years later, in October 1946, and buried in the grave of her family, beside her beloved brother Franco Barbier. A Legacy of History for every idealist.

The reader with a sense of justice may ask: What should have been done with her, instead of provoking instant death by a pistol bullet ? It is a good question, and one that it is difficult to answer honestly. Franca Barbier was not in her Fascist uniform when captured, therefore she was not protected by the generally accepted Laws of War. She was a spy, and consequently in that ill-defined legal ground for which juridical praxis of Martial Law has no clear provision. The execution, in itself, cannot be condemned. It was the usual procedure, in practice by both sides. Hard as it may be, a spy accepted his mission knowing that, if discovered, in all probability his life would be finished. In some case he would be jailed until exchanged, rescued, escaped, or released. Or he would die in prison. History has examples of all that.

What angers the sense of fairness is the offer of becoming a traitor as the price to pay for her life, the proposal of commiting treason against her own Ideals. This is pushing the temptation, provoking an internal struggle in the prisoner. A prisoner without principles may 'volunteer' himself for turning against his former masters (though the sincerity of his 'new disposition' is very much to be doubted), but he must not be forced to such a grave decision. A coward would have yielded, but Franca Barbier possessed a Strong Courage, and she chose Loyalty to her Deep Beliefs over selfish personal interests. This is what makes her immortal. Most people would have fallen to temptation, but she was made of a high temper, an untamable pride, a marked conviction.

At least she was well treated during her imprisonment. Her personal dignity was respected. We have to recognise that as a positive aspect of her captors, all of whom must have felt her death weighing heavily over their consciences. Below is the last letter that the Heroic Ausiliaria Franca Barbier wrote to her mother, few hours before confronting death. Her original words have been preserved verbatim. The text is to be pondered very slowly.

Translation and notes by P. A. Stonemann, CSS Dixieland, are inserted after each paragraph.

24 Luglio 1944, Anno XXII

24th July 1944, Year XXII (the 22nd year of the Fascist Era, begun as Year I in 1923, after the March on Rome of many thousands of Fascist Soldiers led by Mussolini on 28th October 1922, when the Duce took power and reformed Italy)

Mamma mia adorata,

My beloved Mother,

Purtroppo è giunta la mia ultima ora. È stata decisa la mia fucilazione che sarà eseguita domani, 25 luglio. Sii calma e rassegnata a questa sorte che non è certo quella che avevo sognato. Non mi è neppure concesso di riabbracciarti ancora una volta. Questo è il mio unico, immenso dolore. Il mio pensiero sarà fino all'ultimo rivolto a te e a Mirko. Digli che compia sempre il suo dovere di soldato e che si ricordi sempre di me. Io il mio dovere non ho potuto compierlo ed ho fatto soltanto sciocchezze, ma muoio per la nostra Causa e questo mi consola.

Very soon arrives my last hour. My execution has been decided for tomorrow, 25th July. Be calm and resigned to this fate, which certainly it is not that of which we have dreamt. I have not a chance of holding thee in my arms one last time. This is my only, immense pain. My thought will be at the last instant for thee and for Mirko. Tell him to accomplish always his duty as a soldier, and to remember me for ever. I have not been able to accomplish my own duty, but I shall die for our Cause, and this is my consolation.

È terribile pensare che domani non sarò più; ancora non mi riesce di capacitarmi. Non chiedo di essere vendicata, non ne vale la pena, ma vorrei che la mia morte servisse di esempio a tutti quelli che si fanno chiamare fascisti e che per la nostra Causa non sanno che sacrificare parole.

It is terrible to think that tomorrow I shall be no more. I do not wish to be avenged, it is not the purpose, but I desire that my death be an example to all those who call themselves Fascists and who for our Cause do not perform more sacrifice than words.

Mi auguro che papà possa ritornare presso di te e che anche Mirko non ti venga a mancare. Vorrei dirti ancora tante cose, ma tu puoi ben immaginare il mio stato d'animo e come mi riesca difficile riunire i pensieri e le idee. Ricordami a tutti quanti mi sono stati vicini. Scrivi anche ad Adolfo, che mi attendeva proprio oggi da lui. La mia roba ti verrà recapitata ad Aosta. Io sarò sepolta qui, perché neppure il mio corpo vogliono restituire. Mamma, mia piccola Mucci adorata, non ti vedrò più, mai più e neppure il conforto di una tua ultima parola, né della tua immagine. Ho presso di me una piccola fotografia di Mirko: essa mi darà il coraggio di affrontare il passo estremo, la terrò con me.

I wish that Father could return at thy side and that thou never miss the support of Mirko. I should love to tell thee many things, but thou canst well imagine my state of spirit and how it is difficult to put together thoughts and ideas. Give my last farewell to all those who knew me. Write to Adolfo, whom I remember today. My clothes will be sent to Aosta. I shall be buried here, because they will not be able to transport my body. Mother, my little beloved Mother, I shall not see thee again, I shall not have the support of thy last words to me, nor of thy presence either. I have close to me a small photograph of Mirko, which will give me courage for confronting the last step. I shall keep (the photograph) with me.

Addio mamma mia, cara povera Mucci; addio Mirko mio. Fa sempre innanzitutto il tuo dovere di soldato e di italiano. Vivete felici quando la felicità sarà riconcessa agli uomini e non crucciatevi tanto per me; io non ho sofferto in questa prigionia e domani tutto sarà finito per sempre.

Farewell my Mother, poor beloved Mother, farewell my Mirko. Perform always thy duty of soldier and of Italian. Be happy, once happiness might return to (the world of men) and do not weep in excess for me, I have not suffered in this prison and tomorow everything will be finished for ever.

Della mia roba lascio te, Mucci, arbitra di decidere. Vorrei che la mia piccola fede la portassi sempre tu per mio ricordo. Salutami Vittorio. A lui mi rivolgo perché in certo qual modo mi sostituisca presso di te e ti assista in questo momento tragico per noi. Addio per sempre, Mucci !

Of my things thou art, Mother, free to decide what to do. I prefer that my little (relic of faith) be always carried by thee in my memory. My last farewell to Vittorio. In him I trust for being at thy side and helping thee in this hour so tragic for us. Farewell for ever, Mother !

Franca

After that impressive letter of Feminine Courage, a Roman Salute to our Brave Italian Comrades, who do not surrender their Glory !

Le Donne non ci vogliono piú bene Canto dei Soldati della Repubblica Sociale Italiana. Humourous song illustrating the supposed relations of masculine Fascist soldiers with their feminine Comrades.

Le Donne non ci vogliono piú bene
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Le donne non ci vogliono piú bene
perché portiamo la camicia nera
hanno detto che siamo da catene
hanno detto che siamo da galera

L'amore coi fascisti non conviene
meglio un vigliacco che non ha bandiera
uno che non ha sangue nelle vene
uno che serberá la pelle intera

Ce ne freghiamo. La Signora Morte
fa la civetta in mezzo alla battaglia
si fa baciare solo dai soldati

Sotto ragazzi, Facciamole la corte !
diamole un bacio sotto la mitraglia !
lasciamo l'altre donne agl'imboscati

Le Donne non vi vogliono piú bene Canto delle Ausiliarie della Repubblica Sociale Italiana. Ladies, being as they are, could not remain silent to a song like 'Le Donne non ci vogliono piú bene'. Therefore they fancied on the same music an even more humourous answer song illustrating the REAL relations of masculine Fascist soldiers with their feminine Comrades, and entitled it 'Le Donne non vi vogliono piú bene'. In the answer song, Fascist Ladies warn their Gentlemen for not becoming involved with women who 'have become renegades of the Fatherland', those who 'have given themselves to the enemy', and who 'have straw in their heads and water in their veins'. Excellent answer !

Le donne non vi vogliono piú bene
perché portate la camicia nera
non vi crucciate, donne da galera
che tutti sanno avvinte da catene

A voi fascisti, a voi, non si conviene
chi rinnegó la patria e la bandiera
chi si donó al nemico tutta intera
chi ha stoppa in capo ed acqua nelle vene !

Voi che correte il Palio della Morte
fra quattro mura intenti alla battaglia
che per sorteggio, arride a voi soldati

Se un cuor di donna vi fará la corte
che vi ha seguito sotto la mitraglia
é un fuoco in meno in petto agli imboscati !

Italian women supported their soldiers during the whole War
Italian women supported their soldiers during the whole War. This is the cover of the First Book of the Fascist, where feminine as well as masculine writers warmly encouraged their fighting Comrades. Especially in the last two years of War many females decided to take weapons themselves, and plenty of feminine units engaged in fierce combat.

All'armi Brigadier General Piera Gateschi Fondelli, General Commander of the Feminine Auxiliary Service, loved this old Fascist song. She had been one of the Black Shirt women that formed part of the March on Rome in October 1922, when many thousands of soldiers of the Fascii Italiani di Combattimento put Mussolini in command of Italy. They sang 'All'armi' at that time, and she often sang it enthusiastically for the rest of her life. After 1945, General Fondelli was part of the Movimento Sociale Italiano of Pino Romualdi and Giorgio Almirante.

All'armi (Siam fascisti, terror dei comunisti)
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All'armi ! All'armi ! All'armi siam fascisti

E noi del Fascio siamo i componenti
la causa sosterrem fino alla morte
e lotteremo sempre forte forte
finchè terremo il nostro sangue in cuor

Sempre inneggiando la Patria nostra
che tutti uniti difenderemo
contro avversari e traditori
che ad uno ad uno sterminerem

All'armi ! All'armi ! All'armi siam fascisti

Lo scopo nostro tutti lo sappiamo
combatter con certezza di vittoria
e questo non sia mai sol per la gloria
ma per giusta ragion di libertà

I bolscevichi che combattiamo
noi saprem bene far dileguare
e al grido nostro quella canaglia
dovrà tremare, dovrà tremar

All'armi ! All'armi ! All'armi siam fascisti

Vittoria in ogni parte porteremo
perchè il coraggio a noi non mancherà
e grideremo sempre forte forte
e sosterrem la nostra causa santa

In guardia amici ! ché in ogni evento
noi sempre pronti tutti saremo
finchè la gloria di noi fascisti
in tutta Italia trionferà

All'armi ! All'armi ! All'armi siam fascisti

Del bolscevismo siamo gli avversari
perchè non voglion Patria nè Famiglia
perchè sono rifiuti e fanghiglia
che disprezzando noi dobbiam scacciare

Sempre gridando 'Viva l'Italia'
e abbasso tutti i suoi rinnegatori
in alto, in alto il tricolore
che sarà sempre il nostro amor

Other feminine soldiers of the Italian Social Republic

Women soldiers of the various Fascist Armed Forces enthusiastically gave their Oath of Allegiance to the Duce
Women soldiers of the various Fascist Armed Forces enthusiastically gave their Oath of Allegiance to the Duce, and were very devoted in their fight. This was the firm compromise of those brave feminine soldiers, of fighting for the Cause of the Italian Social Republic in which they believed.

MAS Tenth Fleet

Some days before the formation of the Feminine Auxiliary Service (18th April 1944), the Command of the MAS Decima Flottiglia (MAS Tenth Fleet) had already formed on 1st March 1944 its own Feminine Service. The women soldiers of MAS were independent from the Feminine Auxiliary Service mentioned above. MAS women were under command of Fede Arnaud Pocek, Inspectress of the Feminine Sport Section of GUF. In four military units they were organised:

-I Corso 'Nettuno' (Salzano, later Grandola, 5th June 1944)
-II Corso 'Anzio' (Grandola, 8th September 1944)
-III Corso 'Fiumicino' (Col di Luna, December 1944)
-IV Corso (Venezia, March 1945)

The last one mentioned, the IV Corso, was not completed due to the outcome of the war. The number of volunteers of the MAS Tenth Fleet who also became part of the Feminine Auxiliary Service was about three hundred.

Decima Flottiglia MAS Of the MAS Tenth Fleet, the most remembered Heroine is Brunilde Tanzi. Her strong feminine voice sang to Ancient Rome in her beautiful Anthem:

Quando pareva vinta Roma antica
sorse l'invitta Decima Legione
vinse sul campo il barbaro nemico
Roma riebbe pace con onore

Quando all'ignobil 8 di settembre
abbandonò la Patria il traditore
sorse dal mar la Decima Flottiglia
e prese l'armi al grido 'Per l'onore'

Decima Flottiglia nostra
che beffasti l'Inghilterra
vittoriosa ad Alessandria
Malta, Suda e Gibilterra

Vittoriosa già sul mare
ora pure sulla terra
vincerai !

Navi d'Italia che ci foste tolte
non in battaglia ma col tradimento
nostri fratelli prigionieri o morti
noi vi facciamo questo giuramento:
noi vi giuriamo che ritorneremo
là dove Dio volle il tricolore

Noi vi giuriamo che combatteremo
fin quando avremo pace con onore !

Decima Flottiglia nostra
che beffasti l'Inghilterra
vittoriosa ad Alessandria
Malta, Suda e Gibilterra

Vittoriosa già sul mare
ora pure sulla terra
vincerai !

A very young Balilla Hero being condecorated by the Duce
A very young Balilla Hero being condecorated by the Duce. Balilla soldiers of both sexes also defended Fascist Italy. Supposedly they were only 'girls' and 'boys' by their age, but in reality they already were women and men, who knew how to fight, to kill, or to die, for the Fascist Ideal in which they deeply believed.

Balilla National Youth

The Opera Nazionale Balilla (girls and boys under sixteen years of age) formed three feminine units with volunteers. These girls, known as the 'Balilline', were assigned mainly to the Republican National Guard and became part of the Feminine Auxiliary Service. The 'Balilline' units were:

-I Corso 'Avanguardia' (Noventa Vicentina, April 1944)
-II Corso 'Ardimento' (Castiglione Olona)
-III Corso 'Siro Gajani' (Milano, September 1944)

Soldier women in military training, Fascist Italy
Soldier women in military training, Fascist Italy. Female fighters faced the rigours of martial drills with abnegation and enthusiasm, and in fact, they tended to be more disciplined and less complaining than some of their masculine Comrades.

Republican National Guard

At least two feminine units were organised directly from the Guardia Nazionale Repubblicana:

-Guardia alla Frontiera (Moncalieri, 1944)
-Secondo Reggimento di Milizia di Difesa Territoriale (Pola, 1944)

Alessandro Pavolini, Commander of the Black Brigades
Alessandro Pavolini, Commander of the Black Brigades, the Military Forces of the Republican Fascist Party. There were feminine and masculine units, all example of Devotion and Idealism, and frequently the most feared and hated by the enemy.

Black Brigades

Some Brigate Nere of the Partito Fascista Repubblicano, under Command of Alessandro Pavolini, formed combat feminine units. They fought unsurpassingly well, but mainly at local fronts or in defensive positions, and their composition, characteristics or history is not always well known.

And for closing this historical view of Fascism, a powerful warning:

'Non siamo gli ultimi di ieri, ma i primi del domani'
(We are not the last of yesterday, we are the first of tomorrow)

 

Bibliography

On Women Soldiers of Fascist Italy:

Serious study of this interesting subject requires reading Italian language, as the information published in other languages is scarce.

-Anna Lisa Carlotti: 'Italia 1939-1945'. Storia e memoria, Vita e Pensiero, Milano 1996. ISBN 88-343-2458-7
-Luciano Garibaldi: 'Le soldatesse di Mussolini'. Memoriale inedito di Piera Gatteschi Fondelli, Mursia, Milano 1995. ISBN 978-88-425-2242-3
-Milena Franchini: 'Ausiliaria, vieni fuori !'. Il Fiorino 2001.
-Marino Perissinotto: 'Il Servizio Ausiliario Femminile della Decima Flottiglia MAS'. Albertelli.
-Marino Viganò: 'Donne in grigioverde'. Settimo Sigillo 1995.
-Stefano Savino: 'La Fede è una come la Patria'. Settimo Sigillo 1992.
-Ulderico Munzi: 'Donne di Salò'. Sperling & Kupfer 1999.
-Annalisa Terranova: 'Camicette Nere'. Mursia 2007 ISBN 978-88-425-3705-2
-Antonia Setti Carraro: 'Carità e tormento' (Memorie di una crocerossina, 1940-1946). Mursia 1982 ISBN 978-88-425-8690-6
-'Servizio Ausiliario Femminile'. Novantico 2007.
-'Lettere dei caduti della Repubblica Sociale Italiana'. L'Ultima Crociata Editrice 1990, Associazione Nazionale dei Caduti e Dispersi della RSI
-'La Ascenza e la Caduta della Italia Fascista'
-'Italia del Littorio'

 

Hyper links

Information in Internet on Feminine Fighters

There is plenty of good information available in Internet on Women Combatants throughout History. Most documents can be retrieved by Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, then parsed by an interpreter of Hyper Text Mark-up Language or of another standard language of the World Wide Web. Some limited information is available by File Transfer Protocol, Gopher Protocol, News Network Transfer Protocol - Usenet, posting lists via Simple Mail Transfer Protocol and Post Office Protocol version 3 (or IMAP), or another protocol used in Internet transmissions. Some fora or bulletin boards have sections devoted to what is commonly perceived as 'women issues', which may include Women Soldiers or stories of Feminine Courage. The hyper links listed below are specifically oriented towards various aspects of Female Military or related topics.

Ausiliarie at Blogspot Brazil: Auxiliary Feminine Corps of Fascist Italy
History of the 'Corpo Femminile Volontario per i Servizi Ausiliari delle Forze Armate Repubblicane'
http://ausiliarie.blogspot.com.br/

 

Ausiliarie at Blogspot Italy: Auxiliary Feminine Corps of Fascist Italy
History of the tragic events 'Nelle Sanguinose Giornate dell Aprile 1945'
http://ausiliarie.blogspot.it/2008/08/nelle-sanguinose-giornate-dell-aprile.html

 

Bertapiero Italy: Auxiliary Feminine Corps of Fascist Italy
History of the 'Corpo Femminile Volontario per i Servizi Ausiliari delle Forze Armate Repubblicane'
http://www.bertapiero.it/garibaldi/RSI/ausiliarie.htm

 

Controstoria Italy: Auxiliary Feminine Corps of Fascist Italy
History of the 'Corpo Femminile Volontario per i Servizi Ausiliari delle Forze Armate Repubblicane'
http://www.controstoria.it/repubblica-sociale-italiana/servizio-ausiliario-femminile.html

 

Il Duce
Records of Fascist Music (including feminine organisations) in MP3 format, free download
http://www.ilduce.net/

 

Inni e Canti Fascisti
Complete Lyrics of Fascist Anthems, Songs and Poems (including feminine organisations)
http://inniecantifascisti.blogspot.com.br/

 

All hyper links given above on the Feminine Auxiliary Service of the Italian Social Republic are in Italian language. Wikipedia also has some information, mainly in Italian. This English translation has been done from those texts. Unfortunately, information in other languages is scarce about those Italian Heroines.

There are in Internet free books in English language abut warrior women. A very interesting one includes the feats of Queen Artemisia of Caria (which included Halicarnassus, Cos, Nisiras and Calydne) at the Battle of Salamis: 'Famous Sea Fights', written by John Richard Hale in 1911. On women soldiers throughout History, an excellent book is 'Female Warriors', parts I and II, written by Ellen C. Clayton in 1879. Those books are available in electronic format in at least two on-line collections: Project Gutenberg and Many Books, hyper linked below.

Project Gutenberg
Since 1971, the oldest collection of Internet books (over fifty thousand in 2016)
http://www.gutenberg.org/

 

Many Books
All of the books from the Gutenberg collection, converted to mobile formats
http://manybooks.net/

 

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