“All in the same boat”: Non-French women and resistance in France, 1940-1944

Mohaupt, Hillary
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University of Delaware
Resistance in France during World War II has been the subject of much historiographical and popular interest. Few narratives, however, acknowledge the impact of the resistance work of non-French women, who often served in capacities beyond nurse and nurturer. Deeper research into the lives and experiences of foreign women in France who participated in resistance activities reveals much about Vichy’s expectations of women’s roles under their regime, as well as the limits of exclusive categories of resistance and nationality. In this thesis I explore the participation of non-French women in resistance activities in France by examining their involvement in the American Friends Service Committee, the Emergency Rescue Committee (or Centre Américain de Secours), and Special Operations Executive. The concepts of relief, rescue and recovery help frame the discussion of resistance inherent in the activities of these organizations. I also examine how these women understood or confronted gendered expectations of work, family and service through their resistance activities, and then recorded their experiences in memoirs, letters and oral histories prepared years after the end of the war. These sources offer the dilemmas of selective, subjective memory, as well as the opportunity to question the political tools that shape official history and the personal motivations that determine institutionalized memory.