The Story Of A Woman Who Went From Housewife to War Hero

There are so many influential women who overcame obstacle after obstacle to help break through glass ceilings everywhere.  Her Campus Emerson has decided to spotlight some of the many influential women who have since passed away. Please take a moment to learn about the incredible women who have inspired our writers!

Born in 1905 in the heart of the Russian Revolution, Mariya Oktyabrskaya became a revolutionary herself. The country was in a state of political unrest, and many Russian families were stricken with poverty, Mariya’s family of 12 being no exception. Before the 1930s, Mariya seemed to live an obscure life, just as most other people who lived and died with untold stories. Her legacy began with her marriage to a soldier in the Red Army. Her husband, and the cause he was fighting for, encouraged Mariya to join the movement. She began working as a war telephone operator, making minimum wage all the while playing the role of the perfect communist housewife.

In 1941, her husband was killed in battle when Germany hit enemy lines. Mariya was no longer able to sit on the sidelines.

She went on to sell all of her belongings in order to buy a 26 ton T-34 battle tank. The tank was named Fighting Girlfriend. She wrote to Joseph Stalin directly, asking for revenge against the Nazis, and he gratefully accepted. After months of training, Mariya was assigned to the 26 Guards Tank Brigade and entered her first battle. She was known to leave the safety of the tanker to repair Fighting Girlfriend in the lines if enemy fire.

Not only was Mariya promoted to sergeant for her bravery, she participated in the Battle of Kursk, the largest tank battle in history.

In 1944, after a year in battle, Mariya was hit by shrapnel while repairing Fighting Girlfriend. Although she didn’t die on impact, Mariya went into a coma and passed away later in the hospital. She was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union for bravery.

Mariya has a monument in her honor in Tomsk, Russia. She was one of several women serving in the Russian military during WWII.