because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Pearl Witherington

World War II was raging and France was occupied when twenty-nine-year-old Pearl Witherington parachuted into France as a British Special Operations Executive member, said to be the best shot they'd ever seen. During the winter of 1943 and 1944, she served as a courier for the leader of the Stationer Network of underground resisters. But when he was taken captive, Witherington took over the leadership of the newly formed Wrestler Network of 1500 guerrilla fighters, who were so effective at causing the Germans grief, they put a bounty of one million francs on her head.

On June 11, 1944, 2000 German soldiers attacked 140 of Witherington's badly armed trainees, who held off their enemies for 14 hours, killing 86 while only losing 24. Eventually, Witherington's forces were responsible for the deaths of 1000 German soldiers, the surrender of 18,000 more, and compromising the railway system in their region more than 800 times.

Ineligible for a Military Cross because she was a woman, Witherington was awarded the French Legion of Honor and made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, though when they tried to make it a "civil" (non-military) award, she said, "There was nothing remotely 'civil' about what I did. I didn't sit behind a desk all day." So they changed it. It didn't read "in-your-face woman," but Witherington -- as well as the men and women with whom she fought so long and so hard -- knew that's what it meant.

1 comment:

  1. Love how she stood up for the right kind of award she deserved. I reckon they tried to make it a "civil" award in order to placate the ridiculous societal notion of women as always and merely "nurturers".