Women in the Resistance, at Musée de l’Armée

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Shirt made in a parachute’s fabric (silk and later nylon), collection Centre d’Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation, Lyon

It is of common knowledge that women’s role in the Resistance during WWII was completely underestimated and a small exhibition at Musée de l’Ordre de la Libération (in the Invalides) is trying to give justice to the various silent heroes of the time. Out of 1038 “Companions of the Libération”, there are only 6 women. The last one, Hubert Germain died in November 2021 shortly after Daniel Cordier.  The various homes were a strong fort of Resistance a cache for weapons and a hiding place for aviators or fighters. Many pictures show the young women on bicycle serving as liaison officers in Paris and in the countryside. One book, “The Cost of Courage” written by Charles Kaiser on Christiane and Jacqueline, the young women from the Boulloche family in Paris, is particularly illuminating on this topic.

Geneviève, Monique and Marguerite Fillerin surround three RAF pilots (Foster, Barnard and Glensor) in September 1942 in front of the German poster requesting their arrest

One woman, Emilienne Moreau, the daughter of a minor in the North of France, became a hero in 1915 at 16, for guiding Scottish soldiers who were escaping the Germans and she killed two German soldiers during WWI.  She published a book called “La Guerre Buissonnière” on her story.  She resumes her anti nazi activities in 1940 and becomes a companion of the Liberation in 1945. Many resistant women were school teachers, post office workers, town hall employees and café owners. It is quite fun to discover their handbags with a hidden lining for secret papers and flyers, the very small guns which fitted in a handbag, and the fashion made out of parachute silk or underwear with pockets.

Lise London’s handbag with a secret cache for hiding tracts was never found out during her interrogation by the Nazis in 1942

Born in Saône et Loire, Lise London (1916-2012) meets the Czech communist militant Artur London in Moscow in 1934 and marries him after the war. She led women’s demonstrations in Paris which lead to her arrest and deportation to Ravensbrück and Buchenwald. There are many stories and photographs of these heroes of the resistance who had sometimes fought in WWI or had become emancipated because of the first War. One of the arguments of the curators for this show is that women’s actions in the Resistance led to their voting rights in April 1944 a law voted in Algiers by General de Gaulle..

Anise Postel-Vinay, 1922-2020 was one of the companions of the Libération

Many belongings and letters or documents from all these heroic ladies are shown here including their shoes with wooden soles, clothings cards and food cards which they used to buy daily survival  grocery.

The exhibition takes place in a corridor and in cramped rooms of the Chancellerie de l’Ordre de la Libération in the Musée de l’Armée which is quite glamorous otherwise. But it is worth visiting because all these beautiful ladies saved us with their domestic actions.

The hall of Musée de la Libération

Until October 13, Musée de l’Ordre de la libération, Hotel National des Invalides. open every day from 10 am to 6 pm.

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4 Comments on “Women in the Resistance, at Musée de l’Armée”

  1. Every person in France should know about the sacrifices of women who were active in the Resistance during WWII. Keep in mind, the following list is incomplete and includes only French women fighting against the Nazis in France. There were also women resisting the Nazis in other countries such as Spain, Belgium, and Tunisia:
    Francine Agazarian, Juliane Aisner, Lise de Baissac, *Madeleine Barclay, Yvonne Baseden, †Yolande Beekman, †Denise Bloch, †Andrée Borrel, Marie-Thérèse Le Chêne, †Madeleine Damerment, Yvonne Fontaine, Ginette Jullian, Marguerite Knight, Madeleine Lavigne, †Eliane Plewman, †Lilian Rolfe, **Yvonne Rudelatt, Odette Sansom, †Violette Szabo,
    * Died in military action.
    † Executed.
    ** Died in concentration camp of disease.

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