1429-1431 Jeanne d’Arc, Joan of Arc
(1412-1431) leads the French army. The English burn a 19-year old
Frenchwoman named Jeanne la Pucelle as a witch. Her actual crime was
rallying peasants to the French flag. (She and some Scottish mercenaries had
won some important battles, thus giving the peasants hope.) Jeanne la
Pucelle was renamed Jeanne d’Arc (Joan the Archer) during the sixteenth
century. The modern cult of Saint Joan dates to the 1890s, when French
politicians decided to use the woman’s martyrdom to create a unifying
national holiday. (Bastille Day, which the Catholics viewed as godless, and
the Royalists viewed as an insult, was too controversial for this purpose.)
1434-1436: Isabella (1400-1453) was suo jure Duchess of
Lorraine, from 1431 to her death in 1453. Isabella inherited
the duchy from her father upon his death, and ruled jointly with her
husband, Duke René of Anjou, also Duke of Bar and King of Naples, whom
she had married in 1419. During his absence, she acted as regent for his
domains. She led an army to rescue her husband from Philip III, Duke of
Burgundy, who held René in captivity from 1434 until 1436.
life and limb (literally) to prevent assassins murdering James I of
Scotland in 1437. This brave lady-in-waiting used her arm to bolt the
door when they discovered the lump of wood usually used had been stolen
by plotters. That gave the King enough time to escape. The only trouble
was that the attackers charged the door and shattered her arm. Dante
Gabriel Rossetti recounted the story of
Catherine Douglas in verse in 1881, under the title "The King's
Tragedy". This poem contains the line "Catherine, keep the door!"
- possibly the origin of the idiom
1441-1451: In the Low Countries (contemporary Belgium and Netherlands),
at the initiative of Catherine Baw in 1441, and 10 years later of Elizabeth,
Mary and Isabella of the house of Hornes, military knight orders were
founded which were open exclusively to women of noble birth, who received
the French title of chevalière or the Latin title of equitissa (militissa)
– female knight.
1455-1471: Margaret of Anjou (French: Marguerite d'Anjou; 1430-1482) was
the wife of King Henry VI of England. As such, she was Queen consort of
England from 1445 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471 and Queen consort of
France from 1445 to 1453. She led the Lancastrian faction in the Wars of the
Roses; and due to the king's frequent bouts of insanity, Margaret virtually
ruled the kingdom in lieu of her husband. It was she who in May 1455 called
for a Great Council which excluded the Yorkist faction, and thus provided
the spark which ignited the civil conflict that lasted for over thirty
years, decimated the old nobility, and caused the deaths of thousands of
men. While she was attempting to raise further support for the Lancastrian
cause in Scotland, her principal commander, Henry Beaufort, Third Duke of
Somerset, gained a major victory for her at the Battle of Wakefield on 30
December 1460, by defeating the combined armies of Richard Plantagenet, Duke
of York, and the Earl of Salisbury. Margaret had both beheaded, and ordered
their heads displayed on the gates of the city of York. She followed up with
a victory at the Second Battle of St Albans on 17 February 1461, at which
she defeated the Yorkist forces of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick,
and recaptured her husband. After 10-year war, Margaret led her army in
battle at Tewkesbury and was defeated. The Yorkists eventually captured her
and ransomed her to Louis XI, after she had sworn an oath not to go to war
anymore. Margaret is a major character in William Shakespeare's play Henry
1461: Lady Alice Knyvet
(c.1338), wife of Sir John Knyvet of Buckinham. During the
Wars of the Roses, when King Edward IV tried to take the castle of
Buckingham, Alice held it in defiance of him and the royal commissioners.
She vowed to keep the castle as her husband had charged her to do. Being
sieged, she refused to
surrender it. She leaned out
of a tower window and shouted: "If you try to attack the castle I shall
defend it. I'd rather die defending it than give it up. My husband left me
in charge and if I lose it then he'll kill me anyway." So, assisted by some
fifty defenders armed with swords, and bows and arrows, Alice kept her word
until the royal
force retired before the lady.
Khatun (also known as Mandukhai Sechen Khatun or Queen Manduhai the
Wise) (c.1449- c.1510) was the Empress of Mongolian Khaganate (or Northern
Yuan Dynasty). She united the Mongols with her husband Dayan Khan. Thus Mandukhai
took command over the Mongols and warred with the Oirats, and managed to
defeat them. After defeating the Western Mongols, Mandukhai and Dayan Khan
demanded that they follow five codes, including "eat meat without a knife"
and "sit upon your knees before khans".
Mandukhai Khatun takes command of the Mongol army and defeats the Oirats.
1423-1452: Onorata Rodiani (or Rodiana) (1403-1452) was a semi-legendary
Italian painter and condottiere. A citizen of Castelleone near Cremona, she
was commissioned by Gabrino Fondolo, tyrant of the town of Cremona, to
decorate his palace; it is the only record of a commission given to a woman
in the Quattrocento. While she was painting a fresco, which was her
speciality, a young courtier was indecent towards her. She fatally stabbed
the would-be rapist and then escaped, disguised as a man. Conrado Flameno in
quotes her as saying: "It is better
to live honoured outside my homeland than dishounoured within it".
Being caught, tried and
pardoned by Gabrino Fondolo, she entered the service of Oldrado Lampugnano,
a condottiere, as a cavalryman in 1423. Flameno says that she did this
"unknown to all", and then lived "with her name and her clothing changed",
suggesting her as an example of cross-dressing during wartime. She then
served with several captains, including Conrado Sforza, brother of duke
Francesco Sforza. While under his command, in 1452, she supposedly came to
the aid of her hometown of Castelleone, besieged by the republic of Venice.
The siege was raised but she was mortally wounded, carried into the town,
and there, after being "recognized with great amazement", she died.
Since Japan entered a chaotic period of warring states in 1467, rampant
bloodshed put the samurai in great demand, and their wives were often left
as the last defense for their homes. Far from helpless, the typical women of
buke (an elite Japanese military class) were highly skilled in
martial arts, intensely loyal and willing to die to protect her family.
These lethal females were referred to as onna bugei-sha, which
translates as “refined female warriors,” and were expected to physically
defend their homes and their children from raiders when their samurai
husbands were absent. The favorit weapon of an onna bugei-sha was naginata
which would hang inside the door of her house, so it was easily accessible
if her home came under attack. Women favored the naginata because of its
size. The long pole allowed them to keep their male foes at a distance. Buke
women were also trained to pierce an attacker’s chest or throat with
kansashi, the long pins used primarily to keep a woman’s hair in place. It
took considerable strength and skill for these women to battle invaders
while wearing the cumbersome double layers of a silk kimono and traditional
thonged straw sandals. If defeat was imminent, an onna bugei-sha hid kaiken
under her kimono. Rather than being captured, she used the weapon to perform
jigai, an honorable form of suicide in which a woman would cut her own
jugular vein. Jigai brought death quickly, saving women from the ugly
grimace often frozen on the faces of men who committed seppuku, a ceremonial
disembowelment. The women were encouraged to bind their feet together before
committing jigai so that their legs would not be thrown into an immodest
position by death throes.
1472: Jeanne Laisné (b.1456) was a French heroine known as Jeanne
Fourquet and nicknamed Jeanne Hachette ('Jean the Hatchet'). All that
she is currently known for is an act of heroism on 27 June 1472, when she
prevented the capture of Beauvais by the troops of Charles the Bold, duke of
Burgundy. The town was defended by only 300 men-at-arms, commanded by Louis
de Balagny. The Burgundians were making an assault, and one of their number
had actually planted a flag upon the battlements, when Jeanne, axe in hand,
flung herself upon him, hurled him into the moat, tore down the flag, and
revived the drooping courage of the garrison. In gratitude for this heroic
deed, Louis XI instituted a procession in Beauvais called the "Procession of
the Assault," and married Jeanne to her chosen lover Colin Pilon, loading
them with favors.
century: Maire o Ciaragain led Irish clans against the English and was
known for her ferocity in battle.
15th century: Sharifa Fatima, the daughter of the
Imam al-Zayel al-Nasir Li Din Allah of Zaydi. She was a Zaidi chief in 15th
century Yemen, and conquered San'a.
Circa 1498: Brita Olovsdotter Tott (or Thott) (in Swedish) or Birgitte
Olufsdatter Thott (in Danish), called the Lady of Hammersta, was a Danish
and Swedish noble, landowner, royal county administrator, spy and forger.
She was judged for treason and for the forgery of seals. She was one of the
biggest landowners in Scandinavia, and her estates played a role in politics
in Sweden and Denmark. Brita Tott served as a spy in the war between Sweden
Christina of Saxony (1461 - 1521), was a Saxon princess who became Queen
consort of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. When a rebellion broke out in Sweden
against Denmark and the Kalmar union in 1501, Christina was besieged in the
castle of Tre Kronor in Stockholm. She surrendered on 9 May 1502, after the
Danish soldiers had been reduced from 1,000 men to 70 by sickness and
starvation. When she surrendered her position, she turned herself over to
lady Ingeborg Tott.
Lady Ingeborg Åkesdotter Tott (or Ingeborg Aagesdotter of the Thott), in
her lifetime called Ingeborg Åkesdotter (1440s - 1507), was a Swedish noble,
the consort of the Swedish regent Sten Sture the elder. In 1505, a castellan
tried to take her Häme Castle in Finland by force with the support of the
council, but Ingeborg successfully defended the castle, so his troops had to
Catherine of Aragon (Catalina de Aragón y
Castilla, 1485-1536) was Princess of Wales as the wife of Arthur, Prince of
Wales, and Queen of England as the first wife of King Henry VIII of England.
She was also for 6 months Queen Regent of England while Henry VIII fought a
war in France. On September 9, 1513, Catherine of Aragon attended the field
at the Battle of Flodden Field in northern England, between an invading
Scots army under King James IV and an English army commanded by Thomas
Howard, Earl of Surrey. It ended in a victory for the English and a bloody
defeat for the Scots and was the largest battle (in terms of numbers) fought
between the two nations. She p played an important part in the victory.
María de Estrada (perhaps identical with María/Marina de la
Caballería) was a woman to arrive in Mexico with the expedition of
Hernán Cortés as well as the one of the very few women of European
descent to take part in and survive the Spanish conquest of Mexico. She
was a very bold and warlike woman who "was as good a warrior as any
man". She is mentioned as surviving the Noche Triste as well as the
Battle of Otumba. She is described as being instrumental in the defeat
of the Nahua Indians of Hueyapan, charging head first and screaming
La Malinche(1496 or 1505 – 1529 or 1550), known also as Malintzin,
Malinali or Dona Marina, was a Nahua woman from the Mexican Gulf Coast, who
played an active and powerful role in the Spanish conquest of Mexico, acting
as interpreter, advisor and intermediary for Hernán Cortés. She was often
credited with preventing battles through her diplomatic efforts. She was
also a mistress to Cortés and gave birth to his first son, who is considered
one of the first Mestizos (people of mixed European and indigenous American
ancestry). In Mexico today, the term malinchista refers to a disloyal
Kristina (or Kerstin or Christina) Nilsdotter of Fogelvik, Heiress of
Tullgarn (1494-1559), was the wife of the Swedish regent Sten Sture the
Younger, and after his death, leader of resistance to Christian II of
Denmark. In her lifetime she was called "Fru Kristina", but later was
referred to as "Christina Gyllenstierna". During the Swedish war of
Independence against Denmark, rebellion-leader Christina becomes the head
military commander of Sweden and Stockholm and defends the city.
Anna Eriksdotter (Bielke) (1490-1525) was the daughter of noble
chancellor Eric Bielke. She was married to nobleman and chancellor Johan
Månsson, commander and governor of Kalmar. At the death of her spouse in
the middle of the rebellion against Denmark in 1520, she took control
over his fiefdom and defended Kalmar against Denmark.
Pacheco (c.1496-1531) was a noble Spanish woman. When her husband, the
chief comunero Juan López de Padilla, fell in the battle of Villalar, she
took command in his name and successfully led the defence of the city of
Toledo against the royalist forces until the arrangement of a peaceful
surrender of the city six months later.
Rheinholdsdotter Leuhusen, (c.1500-c.1550), was the last Abbess of Saint
Clara Abbey in Stockholm in Sweden. She became known for her involvement in the
Swedish War of Liberation between Sweden and Denmark in the 1520s. In 1520, the
city of Stockholm was sieged and taken by the Danes after the defeat of
Christina Gyllenstierna, but the rest of Sweden soon rose in rebellion and in
1522, the city was now besieged by the Swedes under Gustav Vasa. During the
siege, the Clara nunnery was used as an escape channel by people within the
city, who wished to join the Swedes outside the city, both merchants and
courtiers. Leuhusen was a Danish loyalist and, according to the legend,
responsible for betraying several of these people; during the day, she hung a
white cloth out of the window, and during the night a lamp to the part of the
convent facing the city, as a sign to the Danes that there were refugees in the
building. When they left the convent on their way outside the city, they were
taken by the Danes and executed for treason.
Abbakka Rani or Abbakka Mahadevi (c.1525--c.1570), was the queen of
Tulunadu (India) who fought the Portuguese in the latter half of the 16th
century. She belonged to the Chowta dynasty who ruled over the area from the
temple town of Moodabidri. Her uncle, Tirumala Raya trained Abbakka in the
different aspects of warfare and military strategy. The Portuguese made
several attempts to capture Ullal as it was strategically placed. But
Abbakka repulsed each of their attacks for over four decades. Her marriage
was short lived and her husband longed for revenge against Abbakka and
joined the Portuguese in their fight against Abbakka. Eventually, Abbakka
lost the war, was arrested and jailed. However, even in prison she revolted
and died fighting. For her bravery, she came to be known as Abhaya Rani
('The fearless queen'). She was also one of the earliest Indians to fight
the colonial powers and is sometimes regarded as the 'first woman freedom
fighter of India'.
also referred to as La Gaitana and Cacica Gaitana, was a 16th century Páez
tribal leader who, in 1539-40, led the indigenous people of northern Cauca,
Colombia in armed resistance against colonization by the Spanish. Pedro de
Añasco, a Spanish conqueror executed Gaitana's son for not paying a tribute,
It caused outrage among the indigenous tribes, who decided to cooperate with
each other to join forces against the Spaniards under the command of Gaitana.
Añasco and his men were attacked by surprise and executed. Her monument
sculpted by Rodrigo Arenas stands in Neiva, the capital of Huila in
de Suárez (c.1507 - 1580) was a Spanish conquistadora (female
conquistador) who participated in the Conquest of Chile, was mistress to
Pedro de Valdivia, successfully defended Santiago against an attack of
Mapuche people in 1541, and was eventually married to Rodrigo de Quiroga,
Royal Governor of Chile.
Gaspar de Carvajal, a Dominican monk, reports being attacked by a band of
armed women while travelling inBrazil.
The story causes the
river along which Carvajal was traveling to be called “the Amazon.”
1542-1567: Mary I(popularly known in
the English-speaking world as Mary, Queen of Scots and, in France, as
Marie Stuart) (1542–1587) was Queen of Scots from 1542 to 1567. She
commanded series of raids on Scottish and French territory and other
military actions. It lasted until June 1551, costing over half a million
pounds and many lives. Mary set out for Stirling on 26 August 1565 to
confront her protestant rivals, and returned to Edinburgh the following
month to raise more troops. Moray and the rebellious lords were routed
and fled into exile, the decisive military action becoming known as the
Chaseabout Raid. On February 8, 1587 Marie Stuart was executed.
Catherine Ségurane (Catarina Ségurana) is a Provence folk heroine of
the city of Nice, France who played a decisive role in repelling the
city's siege by Turkish invaders allied with Francis I, the Siege of
Nice, in the summer of 1543. At the time, Nice was part of Savoy,
independent from France, and had no standing military to defend it. Most
versions of the tale have Catherine Ségurane, a common washerwoman,
leading the townspeople into battle. Legend has it that she knocked out
a standard bearer with her beater and took his flag. However, according
to one commonly told story, Catherine took the lead in defending the
city by standing before the invading forces and exposing her bare
bottom. This is said to have so repulsed the Turkish infantry's Muslim
sense of decency that they turned and fled.
1545, Lady Lilliardwas a Scottish hero
who fought at the Battle of Ancrum Moor in one of their last victories over
the English forces. The testimony said that Lilliard was the bravest of the
Scottish warriors - she fought besides her mate. After he was killed, she
killed the English commander but lost her own life later in the battle. The
famous bridge "Lillian Edge" was called in her memory. A stone was raised
with this inscription: "Fair Maden Lillard lies under this stone; Little was
her stature, but great was her fame; Upon the English loons she laid mony
and when her legs were cuttit off, She focht upon her stumps!"
1552: Two young ladies, Isabella de Carazzi and Diambra de
Pettinella, drew swords and dueled one another for the love of a
gentleman, Fabio de Zeresola - all Napoli was shocked. The fight took
place in the presence of the Spanish viceroy, the Marquis Del Vast and a
number of spectators. This romantic story was the talk of the town in
its day. A famous painting by the Spanish artist, José de Ribera (Jusepe
entitled "The Duel of Women" (Duelo
de Mujeres 1636) depicts the infamous event, and hangs today
in the Museo del Prado in Madrid.As a matter of
fact, this is not a regular duel because duels were conducted privately,
at least in front of seconds. This combat looks more like a gladiatrix
fight, although gladiators fought without seconds.
Circa 1553-1593: Gráinne Ní Mháille (c.1530 – c.1603), also known as
Granuaile or Gráinne Mhaol, sometimes known in English as Grace O'Malley, is
an important figure in Irish folklore, and a historical figure in 16th
century Irish history. O'Malley is sometimes known as "The Sea Queen Of
Connaught". Grainne Ni Mhaille commanded a large fleet of war galleys which
wreaked havoc on the English navy, shipping and coastal towns. Grainne
defended her castlet against English successfully, and renamed it into
Caislean an-Circa, the "Hen's Castle," the name by which it is still known.
The English later attacked her at the Hen's Castle, but despite being
outnumbered her harrison withstood the siege. According to legend, she took
lead from the roof of the fortress and melted it, then poured it onto the
heads of the attacking soldiers. She summoned help by sending a man to light
a beacon on the nearby Hill of Doon. Some time before she had ordered the
signal beacons set up for just such a purpose. Help arrived and the English
were beaten back, never to attack the fortress again.
Durgavati (1524-1564), Indian Queen from the family of famous Rajput
Chandel Emperor Keerat Rai. She was born at the fort of Kalanjar (Banda,
Uttar Pradesh). Chandel Dynasty is famous in the Indian History for the
defense of king Vidyadhar who repulsed the muslim attacks of Mahmud Ghaznavi.
Rani Durgavati's achievements further enhanced the glory of her ancestral
tradition of courage and patronage of arts. Indian queen She led her forces
against the Mughal army, but was defeated.
Marguerite Catherine Ponsoye Delaye
was a woman who fought during the siege of Montelimar (south-eastern
France) by Admiral Coligny in 1569, and lost an arm in the fighting. A
one-armed statue was erected in her honor.
Jane Neville (née Howard, 1537-93), Countess of Westmoreland. Along
with her husband, Charles Neville, was the leader of Northern Rebellion.
In fact, she had more to do with raising the troops than he did. She was
well educated but not the cleverest when it came to understanding
political machinations. She was first to urge the rebels to rise up
against the queen and yet she expected Elizabeth to pardon her when they
failed. She hoped to arrange the marriage of her brother, the Duke of
Norfolk, to Mary Queen of Scots and put them both on England's throne.
Norfolk was executed for treason in 1572. Jane Howard lived under house
arrest for the rest of her life, while her husband fled to the Continent
and lived there in exile.
Olofsdotter, widow after soldier Nils Simonsson, serves in the Finnish
troops in the Swedish cavalry in Livonia; she is killed in battle, and king
John III of Sweden orders for her salary to be paid to her family.
On May, 27th, 1571 in the chronicle of a St.Benedict monastery of Milan
there is a story about two notable
seniorities, which have arrived to a monastery to pray in a separate
room, but instead of praying have rushed against each other with daggers.
Duel has ended with death of one of them.
Simonsdochter Hasselaer (1526–1588) was a wood merchant of Haarlem,
Netherlands. When the city was besieged by the Spanish, she led a company of
women in defense of the city, becoming famous for bravery. Around the date
the city surrendered, she was able to flee. The word "kenau" was a Dutch
expression for a harsh woman.
1576-1610: Amina Sukhera (also called Aminatu; 1533-c.1610), was a
Muslim princess of the royal family of Zazzau (now Zaria), in what is
now north central Nigeria. Amina was a preeminent gimbiya (princess) and
a queen. Perhaps, she became queen after her brother Karama's death, in
1576. Yet another claims that although she was a leading princess, she
was never a queen. During this point in her life, she became involved in
the Zazzau military, earning much admiration for her bravery. Her
military achievements brought her great wealth and power. She personally
led an army of over 20,000 soldiers. She is credited as the architect of
the earthen walls around the city of Zaria, for which the providence is
named. These walls are often referred to as Ganuwar Amina. She was
responsible for conquering many of the cities in the area surrounding
van Leemput (c.1530-1607) was a Dutch heroine of the Eighty Years' War
against Spain. According to local legend in Utrecht, she led a large group
of women on May 2, 1577 to the castle of Vredenburg and gave the signal to
begin demolishing the castle.
Chand Bibi (1550-1599), also known as Chand Khatun or Chand Sultana, was
an Indian Muslim woman warrior. She acted as the Regent of Bijapur (1580-90)
and Regent of Ahmednagar (1596-99). Chand Bibi is best known for defending
Ahmednagar against the Mughal forces of Emperor Akbar. Her image became a
popular subject in Deccani painting; she is frequently depicted riding a
white horse, whose lower red half symbolizes its wading through blood (or
bravery in battle).
A Portuguese woman is reported to have served as a man in the
Portuguese army in Angola for a period of five years before she was
Mary Ambree was a Dutch officer. She participated in the fighting
against the Spanish for the city of Ghent. In 1584 the Spanish captured
the city of Ghent, and Captain Mary Ambree, along with several other
Dutch and English volunteers, fought to liberate the city. Ambree
eventually became the subject of an English ballad. An alleged female
French Legionnaire in the book "Sowing Glory" by P.C. Wren was referred
to by the pseudonym "Mary Ambree" in order to protect her identity.
About 1590: A chronicler named Abu Fazl describes the harem of the
Mughal Emperor Akbar as housing about
5,000 women. About 300 of these women were wives, the rest were servants and
guards. The guards were mostly from Russia and Ethiopia, and were
little more than armed slaves. There were exceptions, of course, and one of
Akbar’s chief rivals in the 1560s was a warrior-queen named Rani Durgavati.
Gustafsdotter Stenbock(d.1614) was a
Swedish noble. She was the acting governor in Turku in 1597, in the period
between the death of the former governor, her spouse, and before the
installment of the successor. She was the sister of queen Katarina Stenbock,
and married to Clas Eriksson Fleming, governor of Finland, in 1573. She was
described as a brave personality. She was noted for her fearless conduct
toward Duke Charles Charles IX of Sweden. After her husband's death and
after the Cudgel War, Charles conquered Turku Castle. Ebba Stenbock was the
military commander defending Turku Castle. After the castle was captured,
Ebba Stenbock was placed in house arrest with her daughters, and later taken
to Stockholm, were she was imprisoned. Her son Johan Flemming was executed
in Turku in 1599.
Qin Liangyu (1574-1648) was one of the highest ranking female generals
in Chinese history. From youth, she learned from her father the skills of
horse archery and martial combat. She accompanied her husband during battles
against local warlords in the southwestern border of the Ming Empire. At the
death of her husband, Qin Liangyu took over his post, and those under her
command were known as the White Cavalry. She participated in many military
campaings against external and internal enemies of the Ming Dynasty. Several
times she sold her personal belongings in order to recruit soldiers at her
command. In 1630, Qin Liangyu fund and led an expedition north to the Ming
capital Beijing in order to aid the emperor against the rising Manchus. In
the following 11 years, Qin Liangyu fought various battles against the
rebels. As the Ming Dynasty crumbled and the Manchus broke south into the
Central Plains, Qin redirected her efforts to resist the advancing Qing
front. As a result of her will and determination in combating the Manchus,
Qin Liangyu was given the title Grand Protector of the Crowned Prince by the
Southern Ming Emperor. Qin Liangyu died after falling off a horse while
examining her troops, at the age of 75.
1600-1663: Nzinga (1582-1663), was a queen of Matamba in West Africa.
She waged war against slave-hunting Europeans. She was a member of the
ethnic Jagas a militant group that formed a human shield against the
Portuguese slave traders. Her death in 1663 helped open the door for the
massive Portuguese slave trade
Komatsuhime (1573-1620) was a Japanese noble woman known in her
childhood as Inahime and also Onei. She was adopted by Japan ruler Tokugawa
Ieyasu and married prominent Samurai Sanada Nobuyuki. Komatsuhime
participated in the Battle of Sekigahara. Inahime is a popular female
warrior character in contemporary Japan/
Century: Long Meg, a barmaid who, disguised as a man, fought and won a
sword duel with Sir James of Castille, wounding him in the process. It
happened during the reign of Henry VIII (1509-1547). Long Meg was trained to
a high enough level to defeat not only a knight in combat - she is also
recorded as challenging a man, who had annoyed her, to three Veneys, or
bouts, at quarterstaff. Thus showing, like any true martial artist, that she
was skilled at more than one weapon.
A Javanese prince named Sutawijaya Sahidin Panatagam dies. Throughout his
life, the man’s courage and luck were legendary, and he reportedly forgave
would-be assassins by saying that daggers could not pierce the skin of a man
who was protected by the gods. He took this belief seriously, too, as his
concubines included an EastJavanese
woman who introduced herself to him by attacking him with some pistols
and butterfly knives.
1611: Begum Nur Jahan (alternative spelling Noor Jahan, Nur Jehan, Nor
Jahan, etc.) (1577– 1645) also known as Mehr-un-Nisaa (Mehrunissa) was an
Indian Empress of the Mughal Dynasty, of Persian origin whose tomb lies in
Lahore, Pakistan. Begum Nur Jahan was the twentieth and favourite wife of
Mughal Emperor Jahangir, who was her second husband - and the most famous
Empress of the Mughal Empire. She was a poet and avid tiger hunter. She
hunted from atop a closed howdah, and once "killed two tigers with one shot
each and then four other with four shots". By the way, there are many
historical examples ofqueens shooting tigers and panthers.
Emerentia Krakow, born Emerentia Pauli, Sweden lady, who took up arms to
defend the Fortress of Gullberg against the Danes during a war between
Sweden and Denmark. During the siege in January 1612, many women took part
in defending the fortress. Emerentia fought effectively and bravely. After
her husband Marten was wounded, she took his place; she killed several
attackers by throwing down ladders they placed against the wall. She gave
orders to the wives of the soldiers to fill up the vaulted passage of the
gates with barrels, washtubs, timber, etc. When the Danes stormed on in a
compact body, they were received by a downfall of scalding-hot lye, which
the women kept pouring down on them from behind their barricade. The
daughter of Lady Emerentia thus graphically describes the effect: "They lay
in the vault and around the gates like scalded hogs." Lady Emerentia had
placed two pieces of artillery on the top of a small building fronting the
gates. They were loaded with broken horseshoes and the like and sent out a
disastrous fire. The few surviving Danes fled hurriedly for their lives,
leaving Lady Emerentia in proud possession of the fort. A second attack
which was made later on proved as futile as the first. King Christian then
gave command to abandon the plan of taking the fort. The Danish army
collected in a field in front of Gullberg. But Lady Emerentia was vigilant.
From the walls of the fort she espied a man of prepossessing appearance who
rode a white horse. "Shoot that man!" was her immediate command to the
nearest soldier. The shot took effect, killing the white horse, whose brains
and blood spattered the king. For the man on horseback was King Christian.
"That devilish crow does never sleep!" exclaimed the king, refer-ring to the
two Peruvian women, Ana and Eustaquia
from the mining town Potosi disguised as
and participated in gang wars and duels. During one fight, while
facing four opponents, Ana was wounded and fell, while Eustaquia stood over
her brandishing her cutlass in all directions. Ana regained her senses and
took revenge against the man who had struck her, dealing such a blow that
his shield was split in half and his hand injured. With Eustaquia's help,
she routed the remaining fellows. Afterwards, it was discovered that Ana had
sustained two dangerous wounds, while her mate had three.
of Kelmendi, a legendary Albanian heroine. She can be called the "Helen
of Albania", for one of the biggest wars was "caused" by her beauty. But she
can also be called the Albanian Brünhilde too, for she was the greatest
woman warrior in the history of Albania and further. After her father
abandoned her as an unwanted daughter, her aunt raised her as a boy. Nora's
biological father, having the desire to train some young man to become a
fighter, decided to train the adapted “son” of his sister. Hence,
unknowingly, he trained his own daughter to become a fighter. When Nora grew
up, she become the most beautiful women in the Malesi region. One day,
Bosnian Pasha saw her and wanted to marry her. But she didn't. He was quoted
as stating: "I'll burn all of Malesi to ashes he said, or Nora will become
my wife". She devised the plan of how to kill the mad Bosnian Pasha.
According to a version, Nora pretended to want to marry the Pasha and
visited him in his tent hiding a dagger. She stabbed the Pasha a few times,
kicked him around the back of his head, and choked him a little so he would
not scream. But Pasha survived
Nora ran as planned while the Malesians attacked the Ottomans army and they
suffered great losses.
Ketevan, "The Martyr" (1565-1624) was a queen of Kakheti, a kingdom in
eastern Georgia. In 1614, sent by Teimuraz as a negotiator to Abbas I,
Ketevan effectively surrendered herself as an honorary hostage in a failed
attempt to prevent Kakheti from being attacked by the Iranian armies. She
was held in Shiraz for several years until Abbas I, in an act of revenge for
the recalcitrance of Teimuraz, ordered the queen to to give up the Christian
faith and embrace Islam, and upon her refusal, had her tortured to death
with red-hot pincers in 1624.
1620-1650: Catalina de Erauso, also known as La
Monja Alférez (The Nun Lieutenant) (1592-1650), was a semi-legendary
personality of Spain and Spanish America in the first half of the
seventeenth century. She
was a Basque, born into a family of minor nobility in San Sebastian.
She was a soldier for the Spanish army in Peru and Chile, but more
interestingly, pirate, thief, gambler, murderer, and of course,
cross-dresser. After one fight in which she killed a man and was wounded
apparently fatally, she revealed her gender in a deathbed confession. She
however survived after four months of convalescence and left for Guamanga.
Modern scholarship focuses on her identity as either lesbian or
transgender/queer, but any sexual motivation to her cross-dressing seems
unlikely. It was not unheard of for women with no other options to feign a
male identity - it was the only way to get decently paid work. Interestingly, after her sex was revealed when she was captured, she was
sent back to Spain to see what the Pope had to say about her. According to Church
laws, he could have excommunicated her, and possibly have had her put to
death. Instead, he granted her dispensation to continue dressing like a man
and blessed her! This was the
same pope - Urban VIII - who, a mere few years later, excommunicated
Alberte-Barbe of Ernécourt, Madame
de Saint-Baslemont de Neuville
(1607-1660) was the noble woman of Saint-Baslemont.
She actively defended her manor in 1634 during the 30 Years War. While her
husband fought in Germany beside the duke of Lorraine, she
protected her people against the
soldiery who devastated Lorraine. Carrying man's clothes, and using her
military knowledge she organized effective defense and escort delivery with
Ann Cunningham, Marchioness of Hamilton (died 1646), Scottish political
leader. Her historical importance is as a defender of the Presbyterian
Church in Scotland against Charles I attempt to convert the whole of
Scotland to Anglicanism and her active leadership in the National Coventant
resistance movement. Her son, James Hamilton, 1st Duke of Hamilton, had
sided with Charles I. When he attempted to land an army on the Scottish
Coast in 1639, she organized the defenses and came forth with pistol which
she vowed to discharge upon her son if he offered to come ashore. Lady Ann
Cunningham did however raise a mixed-sex cavalry troop and led them on
horseback during the Battle of Berwick on June 5, 1639. They rode under a
banner showing a hand repelling a prayer book with the motto For God, the
King, Religion and the Covenant. The result led to the Scots' the right to a
free church assembly and a free parliament.
Turkey attempted to retake the city of Azov which was taken by Russians in
1646. The 16-thousand garrison of Cossacks repelled 24 assaults by
100-thousand Turk-Tatar army. The defenders killed 20 thousand enemy
soldiers and forced the enemy to retreat. 800 women defended the fortress
along with men – with the same courage.
Brilliana Harley(1598-1643). During the
English Civil War, in the absence of her husband and sons, she defended her
home, Brampton Bryan Castle during a seven week siege by Royalist troops
until the troops withdrew because they were needed at Gloucester. She then
compelled her tenants to level the Royalist siege earthworks. She also
dispatched 40 troops to raid a local Royalist camp at Knighton. Some 375 of
her letters to her husband and her son Edward Harley survive and show her to
be an educated literary woman, at home in several languages.
Lady Mary Bankes ("Brave Dame Mary"), née Hawtry (c.1598-1661), was a
Royalist who pluckily defended Corfe Castle during two Civil War sieges. As
the wife of a Royalist, Lady Mary was besieged in 1643 and again, after her
husband's death, in 1646. The second siege ended in betrayal after 48 days
when a traitor inside the walls admitted enemy troops in disguise. Forced to
surrender the castle she was allowed to keep the keys of the castle for the
1643-1660: Shen Yunying (1624-1660), was a female general commander in
the imperial army of the Ming dynasty in China. SShe was the daughter of the
imperial General Shen Zhixu, and as a child, she was interested in the
martial arts and read many books on this subjects. She also accompanied her
father on his missions, and she was married to a man of the army as well. In
1643, her father was killed in battle, and Shen Yunying took his place in
command during the fight and led the soldiers to victory. In recognition of
this, she was offered her father's position, which she accepted. She
displayed great military skills in her fight to protect the Ming dynasty
from the armies of both the Manchurian Qing dynasty and Gao Guiying, the
other great female commander of the time, on whose opposite side she was,
but she could not prevent the capture of Beijing in 1644 and the death of
the last Ming emperor. When her husband was killed in battle the same year,
one year after her father, she lost her will to fight from the sorrow and
withdrew to a private life. She founded a school where she educated girls in
both academics and the martial arts.
Henrietta Maria of France (Henriette Marie de France); (1609–1669) was
the Queen consort of England, Scotland and Ireland as the wife of King
Charles I. She actively participated in the English Civil War. She landed at
Bridlington in Yorkshire with troops and arms, and joined the royalist
forces in northern England, making her headquarters at York. She remained
with the army in the north for some months before rejoining the King at
Oxford. The collapse of the king's position following Scottish intervention
on the side of Parliament, and his refusal to accept stringent terms for a
settlement led her to flee to France with her sons in July 1644. Charles was
executed in 1649, leaving her almost destitute.
Charlotte Stanley, Countess of Derby (1599 - 1664), born Charlotte de la
Tremoüille was a French noblewoman. Lady Derby was famous for her gallant
defense of Lathom House against the Parliamentary forces during the First
English Civil War in 1644.
King Houegbadja, the third King of Dahomey, started a long tradition of
Dahomey female warriors. He established a corps of female elephant
hunters called the gbeto. During the 18th century, his descendants trained
their wives as royal bodyguards. Houegbadja's son King Agadja (ruling from
1708 to 1732) developed the female bodyguards into a militia and
successfully used them in Dahomey's defeat of the neighbouring kingdom of
Savi in 1727. European merchants recorded their presence, as well as similar
female warriors amongst the Ashanti. For the next hundred years or so, they
gained reputation as fearless warriors. Though they fought rarely, they
usually acquitted themselves well in battle.
Century: The fashion peak on ladies’ duels has had on the XVII
century middle. In France, Italy, England and Germany women crossed swords
or threw up pistols practically at the any reason. Similar dresses, lovers,
sidelong glance – only a part of that caused for a duel. And the cruelty
shown by them on duels, shocks. From ten duels between women eight were
ending with death. For comparison: man’s duels came to the end with murder
in four cases. Ladies so got used to the weapon, what even posed for artists
with swords in hands.
Century: Gao Guiying, (died 1647), was a female Chinese
army-commander, one of the most remarkable women in the history of China.
She allied with the leader of the greatest anti-Ming rebellion, Li Zicheng.
She took active part in the rebellion, following him side by side at the
head of his army, sharing his command; while Li was the commander of the
male troops, Gao educated, trained and lead the female troops of rebels. The
rebellion was so successful that the armies of Li and Gao effectively
controlled large parts of China and ruled them as independent entities. This
caused Ming-China to fall to pieces, as it was in the same time attacked by
the Manchurians.In 1644, Gao captured Beijing, deposed the Ming dynasty and
declared her husband emperor of a new dynasty with herself as empress and
took control over the city as his regent, but soon after, Li was killed, and
the Manchurians took Beijing and established the new Qing dynasty. Gao now
saw the Manchurians as her new enemies, and turned to her former enemies to
fight them; the remaining relatives of the Ming dynasty had formed a new
court in the south of China and ruled as the Southern Ming dynasty, and Gao,
making herself known as the greatest enemy of the Qing dynasty, was called
there to serve and continue the fight against the foreign intruders. She was
styled "Lady of the first degree" in her own right, her position as military
commander was secured and she was declared protector of the new Ming
Two sisters from a noble family fight a duel outside Bordeaux, France. Their
names are not revealed to avoid embarrassing their family (Bordeaux
Anne Marie Louise d'Orléans, Duchess of Montpensier (1627-1693) was a
French princess of royal blood by birth. She is known in a history as Great
Mademoiselle for her active participating in French Civil wars "Fronde". She
not only took nominal command of one of the armies on the princes' side, but
she literally and in her own person took the city of Orléans on 27 March
1652. She left her escort of troops behind and having failed entry through
other gates of the city, some boatmen on the banks of the Loire outside the
walls of Orléans volunteered assistance to break open a gate on the quay.
Climbing from a boat to the broken gate, she was passed through a hole to
enter the city. However, she had to retreat to Paris, where she practically
commanded the Bastille and the adjoining part of the walls. On 2 July 1652,
the day of the battle of the Faubourg Saint Antoine, between the Frondeurs
under the Grand Condé and the royal troops under the viscount de Turenne.
Mademoiselle saved Condé and his beaten troops by giving orders for the
gates under her control to be opened and for the cannon of the Bastille to
fire on the royalists. In the heat of the revolt which followed, she played
the part of mediator between the opposed parties.
The Swedish noblewoman Görwel Gyllenstjerna, a woman known for her
interest and skill in the "male sports", challenges lieutenant-colonel Nils
Kohl to a duel after he married her cousin without the family's approval.
1665: Two Frenchwomen, Madame de la Pré-Abbé and Mademoiselle de la
Motte had a fierce duel. They fired pistols at one another from horseback
from a range of about ten yards, and then, after missing twice, took to
fighting with swords.
Keladi Chennamma, a queen of Keladi, fought
the Mughal Army of Aurangzeb from her base in the kingdom of Keladi. Her
rule lasted for 25 years and Keladi kingdom was probably the last to lose
autonomy to Mysore rulers and subsequently to British. She is considered as
the epitome of the kannada women's valor along with Onake Obavva and Kittur
Chennamma. "The beautiful Queen had the ability to kill her enemies in the
battles, like Durga (the goddess of power)".
Alyona Temnikovskaya (Arzamasskaya), "Ataman Alena", "Russian Jeanne
", was a fellow fighter
of Stenka Razin.
Being a nun, she joined to the Razin's rebellion as soon as it began in
1669. She gathered a detachment of 200 peasants and then many Mordvinian,
Tatar and Russian peasants joined her – about 6 thousand altogether. In
1670, having merged her forces with forces of another rebel commander Fedor
Sidorov, she captured the town of Temnikov. Alena ruled the town for two
months and commanded the huge rebel army. On November 1670, at the village
of Vedenyapino, her forces were attacked by the government forces and
defeated. When Alena realized that she lost the battle, she jumped to a
church and was captured by chastisers. After brutal tortures she was committed to the flames
Awashonks (also spelled Awashunckes, Awashunkes or Awasoncks) was a
female sachem (chief) of the Sakonnet Indian tribe in Seconet, Rhode Island.
She initially supports Metacom (also known as King Philip) during King
Philip's War, but later but later made peace with the English colonists and
signed the Plymouth Agreement of 1671.
1675: Queen Anne
(c.1650 - c.1715) was the chief of the Pamunkey Native American tribe. Due
to her authoritative position, she was always called Queen Anne by
the colonists. In 1675, Virginia Governor William Berkeley requested that
Queen Anne furnish warriors to the colonists during Bacon's Rebellion – a
revolt led by Nathaniel Bacon.
She initially refuses on the grounds that her tribe was neglected by the
colonists for twenty years, but relents when the colonists promise better
treatment for her tribe.
Hortense de Mancini,
Duchesse de Mazarin, whose skill in fencing was matched by her expertise as
a shootist and gambler; King Charles called this dark beauty the finest
woman he had ever met She had lesbian relationship with Anne, Countess of
Sussex, the king's illegitimate daughter by the Duchess of Cleveland. This
culminated in a very public, friendly fencing match in St James Park, with
the women clad in nightgowns, after which Anne's husband ordered his wife to
Lisbetha Olsdotter (died 1679), was a Swedish female crossdresser,
dressed as a man and served as a soldier. Lisbetha Olsdotter
served in the Swedish army under the name Mats Ersson. With the help
of the master mariner Erik Persson Arnelii, who knew her biological sex, she
enlisted as a soldier, and gave Arnelii some of her salary as thanks for his
help and silence. She was present in all
the military drills and performed all her duties as a soldier, and married,
according to all traditional ceremonies of the church, the maid Kerstin
Ersdotter. She was judged
guilty of the charges under the law of the act of religion from 1655; for
having, with full intent, "mutilated" her gender, "mocked God and the Order
of God", and fooled authorities and her "fellow Christians" by impersonating
a man. She was sentenced to death by
Dieu-Le-Veut also called Marie-Anne or Marianne (born c.1650) was a
French Pirate, a so called Buccaneer, and together with Jaquotte Delahaye
one of very few female ones. Her name means "Anne Gods-wants-it". Anne
Dieu-Le-Veut became known in the Caribbean Sea as a great fighter, one of
the first of many female pirates famed for their fighting-skills. During one
of fierce naval battles, she was captured but her fame was so great that
when the French Marine Secretary of Pontchartrain heard of this, he wrote to
Louis XIV of France and asked him to make the king of Spain intervene. Anne
was then freed as a special service between kings, and she was never heard
Julie (Julia) d'Aubigny (1670–1707), also known as La Maupin, was a French
cross-dressing opera singer, famous duellist, swordswoman and swashbuckler.
Her tumultuous career and flamboyant life inspired romances and novels.
d'Aubigny gathered a reputation as a wild woman who fought duels with young
aristocrats. She became involved with an assistant fencing master named
Serannes who was charged with a murder. Once she fought a victorious duel
against three young squires and drove her blade through the shoulder of one
of them. Next day she asked for his health and found out he was Louis-Joseph
d'Albert Luynes, son of the Duke of Luynes. Next evening one of his
companions came to offer his apologies; she appeared in his room in female
clothing and became his lover. She became a professional duelist. When she
fought three noblemen in a court ball around 1693, she fell afoul of the
king's law that forbade duels in Paris. She fled to Brussels to wait for
calmer times. Théophile Gautier loosely based the title character of his
novel Mademoiselle de Maupin (1835) on Julie.
Chamberlyne was a female tar (sailor) who disguised herself as man,
joined her brother's ship's crew in 1690 and fought the French at Beachy
Head. A plaque in a church said: "Anne aspiring to great achievements
unusual to her sex, and age, on the 30th of June 1690, on board a fire ship
in man’s clothing, as second Pallas, chaste and fearless, fought valiantly
six hours against the French, under the command of her Brother".
Hannah Duston (born Hannah Emerson; 1657-c.1736) was a colonial New
England woman who, having been captured during an Indian raid, escaped from
her captors with other prisoners by killing captors. During a night she
killed ten of them while they were asleep and escaped with the other
prisoners in their canoe, taking their scalps with her. The Puritan minister Cotton
Mather proclaimed Dustin “God’s instrument,” while the General Assembly of
Massachusetts awarded her a sizable scalp bounty.
Christian Davies (1667–1739), born Christian Cavanagh (also known as Kit
Cavanagh and Mother Ross), was a soldier and dragoon in British army. She
served in the British Army, in disguise, as a male soldier Christopher Welsh
- first as an infantry man, from 1697 until 1701, and then for five years as
a dragoon in the Scots Greys. She fought in several battles and was
repeatedly wounded. She managed to conceal the fact that she was a woman
without being discovered: she ate with men, drank with them, slept with
them, played cards with them, even urinated alongside them by using what she
describes as a "silver tube with leather straps". When she was seriously
wounded, fracturing her skull a regimental surgeon treating her discovered
that Christopher Welsh was in fact a woman.
Charlotte Amalie of Hesse-Kassel (1650–1714) was queen-consort of
Denmark and Norway, being the wife of King Christian V. Charlotte Amalie
gained great popularity from defending Copenhagen when King Charles XII of
Sweden invaded Zealand in 1700. During this incident, she strengthened the
resolve of the people of the capital by speaking to them, convinced the
commandant of the city to give the public access to the canons, and
organized the defense of the capital. For this act, she was hailed like a
century: Countess de Saint-Belmont, a widow sent a challenge for a duel
to an officer being impolite to her and signing the letter "Chevalier de
Saint-Belmont." Not realizing his opponent was a woman, the officer
accepted. The Countess diguised herself as a man, and the two met at the
appointed place. Well trained in fencing, the Countess quickly subdued the
officer, knocking his sword out of his hand and kicking it out of reach,
leaving him at her mercy. To his great shame, she told him, "You're mistaken
if you think you've been fighting with the Chevalier. I am Madam
Saint-Belmont, and I urge you to be more sensitive to women's requests."
century: Following a coup in Siam, women drilled in the use of
muskets replaced the 600 European mercenaries and Christian samurai who had
served the previous government. Siamese and Burmese princes used
femalebodyguards inside their harems
and private apartments.
century: Bibi Dalair Kaurwas a Sikh
woman who rallied 100 female Sikhs against the Mughals attacking fort
AnandPur. A Mughals' leader yelled at his soldiers, "Cowards, are you afraid
of women? They are gifts for you, capture them and do what you want with the
rewards of your hunt." Bibi Dalair Kaur yelled back, "We are the hunters,
not the hunted. Come forward and find out for yourself!" And she told her
remember that we are all trained warriors and we will die fighting rather
than be taken as
pick up you guns and get in position; it's a good day to die". The brave
women fought fiercely and killed a lot of enemy soldiers before they died
fighting to the death. Bibi Dalair is considered to be a martyr among Sikhs.
century: Mussasa was a Jaga queen. Her nation was on the Cunene river in
what is now Angola (Africa). She expanded her empire greatly through her
military, and led soldiers into battle. She was succeeded by her daughter,
Dueling provides a favorite theme for French playwrights (including
Moliere). According to these writers, people (both men and women dueled
in French plays) dueled more often for love than honor, and noted that
trickery brought victory more often than bravery. Female duelists were
century: Several soldiers are reportedly discovered to be female
in theFrench army during the reign
of Louis XIV of France.
Exclusive of the Female Sinfle Combat Club
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