The Night Witches

From the depths of hell in silence

Cast their spells, explosive violence

Russian night time flight perfected

Flawless vision, undetected

-Sabaton, Night witches

Miscellaneous

Written by: Peter Anderson

The debate concerning women in combat roles flares up from time to time when the news cycle has slowed. Women’s effectiveness in combat is called into question – generally considered ‘too physically weak for battle.’ (The flip side to that argument might be that ‘PMS would make any woman much more terrifying in battle).’

One way or the other, the debate rages on, and nothing gets done. However, during World War 2, a division of all-female bomber pilots made the German lines tremble in fear. So much so that any German that shot down one of these planes was awarded an Iron Cross.

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They were known to the Germans as Nachthexen, or the Night Witches, for the only warning they gave was the whooshing sound, reminiscent of witches’ brooms flying, before the bombs fell. It was a name that became more apt upon discovery that this uniquely deadly payload had been delivered by women ranging from 17 to 26 years old.

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The pilots, mechanics, and other members of the 588th-night bomber regiment, consisted entirely of women. Colonel Marina Rakova had petitioned Stalin himself to form this unit after receiving letters from hundreds of women who’d lost husbands and boyfriends during Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union.

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Stalin relented, and the 588th was formed. However, he didn’t see fit to equip these new soldiers with the same modern equipment the men had. Male pilots received radios, closed cockpits and planes with the latest technology. The women were given flashlights, maps, pencils, compasses, rulers, and men’s uniforms, which were much too big for them.

A great deal of discrimination was delivered by the rest of the male soldiers, but the ‘witches’ embraced it. They were known for drawing large flowers on their planes and using navigation pencils as eyeliner.

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The planes flown by the 588th, the Polikarpov Po-2 biplane, were repurposed canvas and plywood crop dusters from the 1920s. The Po-2 could not fly as high or as fast as the German aircraft at the time, and if hit, could easily burst into flames. However, one advantage of the Polikarpov was that it flew too slow for the German planes, which would cause the enemy aircraft to stall. The crop dusters also had much more maneuvering capability.

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The Polikarpov could only carry two to four bombs simultaneously, which meant flying between eight and 18 missions per night. One of the most successful and well-known techniques used by the Night Witches was to cut their engines as they got close to the German lines. Next, one or two planes would drop flares or get caught by German spotlights, while the others would hone in on their targets and then release the payload.

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By the end of the war, the 588th had flown 30,000 raids and dropped over 23,000 tons on enemy lines. With numbers like that, no one can say that women do not belong in combat. This all-female regiment of pilots struck fear into the hearts of their enemies and were integral in bringing WW2 to a close.


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During their tenure, the Night Witches only lost 30 pilots during raids, and 23 of them received the Hero of the Soviet Union Award. Following the war, the 588th continued to serve in Soviet forces, converting into the 46th Taman Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment.

Dream of Sanctuary

LETTERS

Written by: Lily Dauphinee

Some ghosts haunt us, some serve as constant reminders of what we could have done or been. Some take their time before they find solace elsewhere. Some drag us down for the rest of our eternities. Mine lives with me, making my greatest accomplishment the only thing I’ve truly done wrong. When called to strength, I prevailed, yet made the lives of others increasingly worse.

When I could’ve shared the burden of my past with those I loved, I decided instead, to shed the sins of my father for a better life of my own. I’d be leaving behind my own blood, the only person I ever truly loved and wanted to protect with my life, my sister.

It’s funny how three words, spoken a dozen times in my head had no effect until I said them aloud in a moment of weakness. The phrase “he touched me” left my lips and turned the life I knew on its head. Then my mother locked the doors and shut the blinds, all because of three little words. Yet previously, the words “stop” and “no” served no effect other than to encourage misbehavior.

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My mother held me all night as she cried into my hair, and I cried into hers. She cried for not being able to protect her children from her ex-husband’s temper and heavy hand; I cried for leaving my blood, not being able to protect my only sister like I had done for years before. I knew then what I had done could never be changed, I knew then that I’d never let anyone hurt me again if not for me but for my sister. I had failed her and left her in his grasp for no reason other than my own weakness.

That night I dreamt of my sister…

While we shared a father, her skin in contrast to mine was dark, though even in the shadows, I could tell she was crying. Her tears ran silently down her cheek, not letting as much as a whimper escape her lips, for we had been trained not to show weakness. We were told weak women were undesirable in the eyes of man, and man should be the only thing we seek. I wiped her tears and soothed her with impromptu stories of fancy all through the night.

In the world of our room, we weren’t victims of child abuse…

rape, or the injustices that came with being women in a household dominated by a man. The covers provided us sanctuary guarded only by our imaginations. Beneath these yellow-stained sheets, we were spending our Sunday’s playing in a swimming pool, suckling on strawberry popsicles, and drinking homemade lemonade out of mason jars. Here the worst pain in life would be the sunburns on our backs, reminding us of a day well spent. I knew in this environment I could truly do anything, be anything. Too soon, however, the daydream would end. Too soon, a knock on the door would come. Too soon, we’d be ripped from the sheets that kept our utopian fantasy safe. Eventually, as all things do, the dream we could never reach came crashing upon on us, as the winds knocked down the door and swept up the tented sheets.

He’d separate me from my sister…

As we drifted apart, my sister let out a single sob, not of sadness or even of fear, but one of longing, longing for the sanctuary she knew she could never have. The sanctuary I would achieve just three months after that day. For I was grounded in my mom, tethered to the possibility of achievement; of the love and respect that comes with freedom, while her life remained in the air, never to know what could’ve been. She remained in the eye of the storm while I sought refuge elsewhere.

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I haven’t dreamt about her since…

and let myself accept the fact that I left that small, trembling girl in the hands of the devil. Though I never saw him touch her I wouldn’t let him, she was mine to protect, and that had been my purpose, to put myself in harm’s way so she could be strong and…

grow. Yet with those three little words that she’d never even heard, her life had drastically changed forever. She would lose a protector, and I would become bereaved of my purpose.

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Now I live my days trying for the best. I do all that I can and make the most of this life I would give back in a second just to wipe away that one last tear. I will forever be grateful for the existence I’ve carved out for myself, and do my best to succeed in spite of my father and all of his wrongdoings. I triumph for my sister, and look forward to the day when I can hug her once again. But for now, I continue on the path I’m on and vow to make not only my family proud but myself proud. I believe in that, my dream of sanctuary can transform into a reality.

Female Voting Rights and the Age of Consent

Domestic

Written by: m.wilson

A network of Christian feminist reform groups, advocated for an increase in the age of consent from 12 to 16 (and with the eventual goal of 18), with its “social purity movement,” at the closing of the 19th century (Wikipedia contributors, 2020). Prior to this movement in 1880-U.S., within 37 states, the age of consent was 10 years old, and in Delaware, it was seven years of age.

For centuries throughout much of the western world in countries like England and France, the age of consent was between 10-12 (in 12th century Italy the age of consent was documented at seven years of age), and for a long time before that, consent bore some association with pubescence. However, during this time, consent was legally relevant mostly in terms of violent rape, while marriages between men and those under 10 years of age was common throughout the globe.

Congress Passes the 19th Amendment in 1919

Congress passed the 19th amendment allowing women to vote in 1919. This amendment to the constitution followed after decades of suffragist activity, such as passing individual suffrage acts, mass protests, parades, and more radical tactics such as hunger strikes. However, history recounts that few of the early suffragists would live to enjoy their achievement (ourdocuments.gov, 2020).

As recently as 2001, the age of consent in Hawaii was 14. However, since the 20th century, women have gained more control of their personal and economic lives within society, are less dependent on men for survival, and not as objectified in that regard.

Life Before the Increase

It may be fair to say that women are out there searching for boyfriends and husbands, and at the very least, the idea of ‘competing’ with 12-year-old girls for male attention would probably feel counter-instinctual. Children are not adults, and their worlds consist of things like homework, soccer club, and parental controls for a reason – that they may dwell within environments that facilitate their safe development. There are an infinite amount of reasons why a romantic coupling with an under-aged individual would be physically, emotionally, and intellectually unsuitable for most women.

The “uh oh” Feeling

Changes in societal norms instigated by the feminist movement are occasionally brought to light within the stories of our most celebrated heroes of 19th-century literature, as circumstances, having become taboo in the present, begin to sublimate darker, more ominous inferences. An episode of Timeline titled The Secret World of Lewis Carrollillustrates the real-life happenings that inspired Carroll’s (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’s) masterpiece Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland (published 1865). During the episode, various guests are interviewed, including several fans, famous themselves, who marvel at the story of Wonderland; while experts and family descendants recount the profound influence of his 10-year-old muse Alice Liddell. The ensuing presentation of the book as ‘one of the greatest children’s stories ever,’ and the reflections of those who find the story’s magical circumstances so enchanting, create such a hilariously uncanny mood, that it may delay for the viewer an understanding of what the host is actually getting at until the very end.

Edgar Allen Poe’s happy 11-year marriage to his 13-year-old cousin Virginia Clemm, which began in 1835, only ended when Virginia succumbed to tuberculosis in 1847 (Sobel, 2019). Writers have speculated as to whether Virginia is the dark-haired woman who dies in Poe’s stories such as “Annabel Lee” and “The Raven.” Liberty Voice writer Sobel (2019) wonders ‘what he was thinking about exactly when he was writing his poetry.’

What society now refers to as pedophilia had been the status quo for women and girls, and at the point of state intervention, for well over a thousand years. Centuries of consensus intellectual thought, habitual biology, and behavior was forced to evolve in the very moment women earned the right to vote in national elections. Therefore in 1919-20, it became a little less of a man’s world. But what does that mean?

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Female Writers and the Pseudonym

Literary writing is no longer the middle-class occupation it once was during the 20th century. An Authors Guild survey revealed that the median pay for full-time writers in 2017 was $20,300 and including part-time writers, $6,080 (NYT, 2019). These figures represent a 42 percent drop since 2009, and also reflect declines in journalism. Today most writers’ salary is supplemented by a partner or another occupation. This need to subsidize income, according to the Guardian (2019) experts say, is directly linked to the survey data indicating a 94 percent Caucasian demographic.

Markets

Written by: Berti Walker

Do genders still play a prominent role in society in regards to writing? Or, with the epoch of gender fluidity and diminishing pronouns upon us, has society finally moved on from pigeon-holing genders and genres? There have been countless arguments, articles, and papers written on the subject, so I’m going to focus on my experience and what advice I would give now to someone who may be choosing their own pseudonym.

Seven years ago, my first short story was published in a controversial magazine. The editor informed me that there were cases of hate mail addressed to the contributors, so I decided a pseudonym would be best to make it harder for the crazies to track me down, should they feel so inclined. Choosing a pseudonym is a big commitment. It’s your new identity, your alter-ego, your brand. I could be anything. Anyone. Total anonymity. So, I thought long and hard. I researched. I asked other authors. The advice I received was that genre, audience, and expectations mattered. Women wrote romance. Sci-fi and fantasy genres were predominantly male readers and authors. So were horror, crime, and graphic novels.

Fantasy writers used initials, like J.R.R. Tolkein. You would think, “Well, initials are not gender-specific. That seems safe. The gender isn’t important. It’s just initials and a surname.” I think so, too. But people still assume that the author is male when presented with a pseudonym consisting of initials. That’s on them. You just need to be aware.

Joanne Murray (J.K. Rowling) was influenced in choosing her pseudonym. She spoke about it in an interview with CNN. “Oh, because my publisher, who published Harry Potter, they said to me, ‘we think this is a book that will appeal to boys and girls.’ And I said, oh, great. And they said, ‘so could we use your initials?’ Because, basically they were trying to disguise my gender.” She even went on to write a crime novel under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

After looking at the genres I was interested in (horror, fantasy, sci-fi, Bizarro), I decided on what I thought was a gender-neutral pseudonym, leaning toward the masculine. I chose Berti Walker. Berti (could be short for Robert or Roberta) and was a nod to P.G. Wodehouse’s character, Berti Wooster. Walker, in recognition of my first published short story, Zombie Lovers Anonymous. As to be expected, most people did believe I was a male. I was, however, using my own photo on social media profiles for Berti and in book bios. So I didn’t hide my gender, necessarily, though I did use intentional deception in hopes of better sales and more publications – as I was operating under the assumption that more people still preferred male writers in those fields.

I mean, take a look at the Hugo Awards winners. Once again, last year, its organizers were in the spotlight due to controversy surrounding the gender imbalance. James Davis Nicoll was kind enough to do the numbers for us, tallied over the last 65 years of Hugo Awards in his Tor article Gender and the Hugo Awards, By the Numbers. These were his findings: