1804-1816: William Brown (birth name unknown) was a Black woman
who joined the Royal Navy as a man. One story is that Brown was born in
Edinburgh, joined in 1804 and served at least until at least 1816, even
after Brown's birth sex was discovered in 1815. More probably she was
from Grenada and only served for a month before discovery. The
Annual Register of September 1815 reported:
"Amongst the crew of the Queen Charlotte, 110 guns, recently paid off,
was a female African, who has served as a seaman in the Royal Navy for
upwards of 11 years, several of which she has been rated able on the
books of the above ship by the name of William Brown, and has served for
some time as the captain of the fore-top, highly to the satisfaction of
the officers. She is a smart well-formed figure, about 5 feet 4 inches
in height, possessed of considerable strength and great activity; her
features are rather handsome for a black, and she appears to be about 26
years of age. Her share of prize money is said to be considerable,
respecting which she has been several times within the last few days at
Somerset-place." Brown was
the first known black, biologically female individual to serve in the
Mai Sukhan (b.1771), was the widow of late 18th century-early 19th
century Sikh leader Gulab Singh Bhangi, who gained renown in Punjab for
her military leadership. In 1805, when the forces of the powerful
Lahore-based Sikh emperor Ranjit Singh were in the midst of conquest of
the holy city of Amritsar, the band of defenders under the command of
Mai Sukhan held them off for a considerable period of time.
1807-1816: Nadezhda Durova (1783-1866), also known as Alexander Durov,
Alexander Sokolov and Alexander Andreevich Alexandrov, was a woman who
became a decorated soldier in the Russian cavalry during the Napoleonic
wars. She was the first known female officer in the Russian military. Her
memoir, The Cavalry Maiden, is a significant document of its era because few
junior officers of the Napoleonic wars published their experiences and
because it is one of the earliest autobiographies in the Russian language.
After learning that the Polish hussar Aleksandr Sokolov was actually a
Russian woman named Nadezhda Durova, Tsar Alexander I awards Durova a medal
for bravery and a commission as an officer in the Mariupol’ Hussars. Durova
continued serving with the Russian Army throughout the Napoleonic Wars, and
retired as a captain in 1816.
Joan of Arc"
(1785-1813) was a German woman soldier who fought in the Prussian army
against Napoleon during the War of the Sixth Coalition. Eleonore was
one of many German women to fight in the Napoleonic Wars, though almost all
of them were ejected from the army when it was found out that they were
plays and poems were written on her life; Ludwig van Beethoven began a
"Bühnenmusik" on her, with a libretto entitled "Eleonore Prochaska".
report in the Naval Chronicle in 1807 describes two women served in British
Elizabeth Bowdendisguised herself as a boy and joined the British Navy, calling herself
John Bowden. After being discovered to be female she remained on board as an
attendant. Another woman using the name of Tom Bowling served in the Royal Navy for 20 years as a boatswain’s mate.
1807-1809: Cheng I Sao, Commander of the Red Flag Fleet and Leader of
the Pirate Confederation Ching Shih, China. She took over as leader of the
enormous pirate fleet which included between 1.500 and 1.800 ships and
80.000 male and female pirates when her husband, Cheng I, was killed in a
typhoon in 1807.
(known as Augustina, the "Maid of Saragossa") fought the French who were
trying to take over the town of Saragossa when Napoleon put his brother
Joseph on the Spanish throne. She participated in two sieges and
distinguished for her heroism. During the first siege of Saragossa in 1808,
her lover was an
artillery sergeant fighting at the Portillo Gate. The entire crew of his
gunmen was shot down before they could fire their last round. Agostina ran
forward, seized the lighted match from her lover’s hands and started firing
the cannon. The French were hit by a full load of grape shot at very short
range, and their attack was broken. Palafox claimed to have witnessed these
events in person, and Agostina was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant.
1808: Marie Schellinck,
a Belgian officer in Napoleon's army. Participated in many battles and was
wounded at Jemmappes, Austerlitz and Jena. She received the French Legion of
Honor and a military pension in 1808. She
and her husband had joined the army, and she started serving there with
cooking and cleaning and then decided to become a soldier. Her secret was
discovered when she got injured. And when the Emperor was told of this, he
was much amused and decided to decorate her for her courage. He had all the
right to have her punished, cause although female soldiers were not a
special thing, it was still forbidden.
Well-known painting (by
Lionel Noel Royer)
reproduction from Le Petit Journal, September 1894, depicted Napoleon
Bonaparte presenting Marie Schellinck with 'Légion
d'honneur' on the battlefield in 1808.
1808-1814: Joanna Zubr (c.1770-1852) was a Polish soldier of the Napoleonic Wars, veteran
of the Polish-Austrian War and the first woman to receive the
Virtuti Militari, the highest Polish military
order. In 1808, Joanna Żubr with her husband Michał Żubr defected from
Austrian-ruled Volhynia. Both joined the army, with Joanna initially serving
as a camp-follower. However, soon she joined the 2nd Infantry Regiment as a
private, hiding that she was a woman from both her superiors and fellow
soldiers. In 1809 she took part in the Galician Campaign and distinguished
herself in the Battle of Zamość of May 19 of that year. After the campaign
she joined the 17th Infantry and was promoted to sergeant, as the first
woman in the Polish Army. Their unit, renamed to Greater Polish Division,
took part in the Napoleon's invasion of Russia and the campaign in Belarus.
During the fights and Napoleon's retreat, she reached the Polish units in
Saxony and served with distinction until the Treaty of Fontainebleau and the
end of the war.
1809-1826: Doña Juana Azurduy de Padilla (1780-1862) was a
Bolivian-Argentine revolutionary and guerrilla leader during the South
American Wars of Independence of the early XIX century.
When Bolivia declared its independence in 1809, her husband and she raised a
small army to fight for an independent republic. She was
wounded in battle on November 1816, and her husband (Manuel Padilla) was
killed while trying to rescue her. Juana Azurduy de Padilla continued to fight against royalist
forces until Bolivia became an independent republic in 1826 when Spanish
forces were finally overthrown. Juana Azurduy had managed to form a small "republiqueta"
(little republic) with the territory her small army held. This republiqueta
was basically under siege from 1810 until 1825 when other republican armies
under Simon Bolivar were able to join her remote forces.
1810-1817: Maria Gertrudis Bocanegra de Mendoza de Lazo de la Vega
(1765-1817) was a woman who fought in the Mexican War of Independence.
Unusually for a woman of her time, Bocanegra had read the principal authors
of the Age of Enlightenment. When Mexico's War of Independence began, she
was quick to take sides. She served as a messenger for the insurgents in the
region of Pátzcuaro and Tacámbaro, helping to form a communications network
between the principal locations of the rebellion. Her husband and one of her
sons joined the forces of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla when the insurgents
passed through Valladolid (now Morelia) in October 1810. Both of them died
in the war. During the guerrilla war, she was sent to Pátzcuaro to aid the
rebels in the capture of the city. However, she was betrayed and taken
prisoner by the royal army in 1817. She was subjected to torture to get her
to reveal the names of other rebels, but she refused to give information to
the Spaniards. Finally she was tried, found guilty of treason and sentenced
to death. Facing the firing squad, she harangued her executioners before she
was shot. She is known in Mexico as La Heroína de Pátzcuaro. A plaza was
named in her honor and a bronze statute was erected of her in Pátzcuaro.
1812: Elizabeth Hatzler (b.1790), was a
veteran of the Franco-Russian war of 1812. In 1810, she was married to
George Hatzler, a Sergeant of cavalry in the French Army.
She wore the uniform of a French dragoon (musket-carrying infantry trooper)
and fought beside her husband in several battles in 1812 against the
Cossacks. She saved her wounded husband’s life by carrying him for miles
during the French retreat.
1812-1814: Lucy Brewer (or Eliza Bowen, or
Louisa Baker) is a nickname of the first woman in the United States Marines,
serving aboard the USS Constitution from 1812 to
1814. Her legendary life was described in the book “Adventures of
Lucy Brewer” by an anonymous author. In 1812, motivated by a patriotic
desire to fight in the War of 1812, Lucy tricked her way onto the
Constitution, pretending to be a man named George Baker.She
served valiantly for three years and in many naval battles against the
British before being honorably discharged, all the while keeping her true
gender a secret. The book ends with Lucy returning to Plymouth as a woman
and settling down into traditional married life.
Johanna Stegen (1793-1842), was a German
heroine of the Napoleonic Wars. On 2 April 1813 German troops (made up of
the fusiliers and volunteer Jägers of the 1st Pommerschen infantry regiment)
clashed with Napoleonic troops near Lüneburg. In the course of the battle,
the Prussian regiment risked running out of ammunition and so Johanna rushed
ammunition to them in her apron, thus significantly contributing to the
Prussian victory. She was glorified soon afterwards in the patriotic poems
of Friedrich Rückert.
1813-1815: Augusta Kruger (Sophie Dorothea Friederike Krüger, August
Lübeck or Auguste Krüger) (1789-1848) was a soldier in the Prussian army.
She served disguised as a man during the Napoleonic Wars in Germany from
1813 to 1816. Trained as a tailor, at 23 years old she cut off her hair, put
on a male costume she had designed herself and obeyed a mobilization
proclamation. Her comrades admired her courage very much and were loyal to
her, but during one attack her high voice betrayed her. However, she was
even promoted to corporal after the Battle of Möckern. She was awarded a
Russian Order of St. George and the Iron Cross.
1814-1815: Anna Lühring (1796-1866) (sometimes wrongly referred
to as Anna Lührmann) was a soldier in the Prussian army during the
Napoleonic Wars. She became keen to join up after Tettenborn's capture
of Bremen and the death of Eleonore Prochaska whilst serving in the
Prussian Army. Dressed in her brother's clothing, she left Bremen in
February 1814 and joined the Lützow Free Corps under the name Eduard
Kruse at Jülich. In this unit she participated in the siege of Jülich
and some smaller engagements during this. Even when her true identity
became known she remained in the unit until its return to Berlin, where
she was honored for her services. In February 1815 she returned to her
1814-37 Badshah Begum of Oudh (Avadh), Indian
political and military leader. She took up arms against her husband. Badshah
Begum had armed her women to the teeth, who, overpowered the King and
sabotaged all his stratagems. Her husband's son, Nasir sent a brigade of
women soldiers into the royal zenana (women's part of the palace) to have
her removed. The women of the zenana were no less armed so that a fierce
battle between female soldiers took place with volleys of musket ammunition
flying through. The old Begum may have lost some fifteen or sixteen of her
retainers, but the final victory was hers. She left the palace with a
British guarantee that neither her life nor the life of the infant Farid
would ever be endangered again. In 1837 King Nasir died of poisoning. The
British Resident had already drafted a paper ready for the signature of the
next King of Avadh, but Badshah Begum wanted Farid to be king, and she
marched at the head of some two hundred heavily armed men towards the
Palace. Her troops removed the incumbent ruler and his relations. Her troops
could hardly contain their zeal, or ignore the fiery leadership of their
heavily covered Begum. The following day the British opened fire and most of
the Begum's men were killed or wounded, and she were sent to the fort of
Chunar which was in British territory, where both she Farid died in
captivity in 1846.
1821-1825: Laskarina Bouboulina (1771-1825), was a heroine of the Greek
War of Independence. Bouboulina was born in a prison in Constantinople. She
commanded ships in battle against the Turks and Egyptians, During the war,
when the opposing factions erupted into a civil war in 1824, the Greek
government arrested Bouboulina because of her family connection to
now-imprisoned Kolokotronis; the government also killed her son-in-law. She
was eventually exiled back to Spetses. Laskarina Bouboulina was killed in
1825 as the result of a family feud in Spetses.
Kitturu Rani Chennamma (1778-1829), was the queen of the princely
state Kittur in Karnataka. In 1824, thirty three years before the 1857
war of independence she led an armed rebellion against the British in
response to the Doctrine of lapse. The resistance ended in her martyrdom
and she is remembered today as one of the earliest Indian rulers to have
fought for independence. Along with Abbakka Rani, Keladi Chennamma and
Onake Obavva she is much venerated in Karnataka as an icon of bravery
and women's pride.
Countess Emilia Plater (1806-1831), was a revolutionary from the lands of
the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. She fought in the November Uprising and
is considered a national hero in Poland, Lithuania and Belarus, which were
former parts of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. She led a rabble of
armed peasants against the Russian occupiers in Poland in 1830. She was
promoted to Captain of the 1st regiment of Lithuania. She died in a Russian
ambush in December 1831. After the Polish units were defeated by the
Russians, Gen. Chłapowski decided to cross the border into Prussia and
become interned there. Emilia Plater refused to follow orders and instead
decided to try to break through to Warsaw and continue the struggle.
Leaf, was a woman and chief of the Crow tribe who counted coup in the 1830s.
She is described in the autobiography of James Beckwourth as well as in Edwin T.
Denig's chronicle on the tribes of the upper Missouri River. She was a fearsome
warrior; as a child she took a vow to kill at least one hundred enemies by her
1831-1840: Menem Leben Amande of Yejje (Ethiopia) Menen Leben Amede, was
Empress of Ethopia. She commanded her own army and acted as regent for her
son Ali Alulus. In 1842, her husband Yohannes II launched a rebellion
against her. She was wounded and captured in a battle in 1847 but was
ransomed by her son and continued to rule until 1853.
1833:Distinctive was a female duel happened in
London in 1833 when a woman named Rosa Crosby stabbed to death her rival
who was unfortunate to steal her husband. Crosby battled for first time
whereas her opponent has a good experience in fencing. But the winner was
inspired by righteous anger, which withstood the skills.
1842-1849: Ana Maria de Jesus Ribeiro da Silva di Garibaldi, best known
as Anita Garibaldi (1821-1849), was the Brazilian wife and
comrade-in-arms of Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi. A skilled
horsewoman, Anita is said to have taught Giuseppe about the gaucho culture
of the plains of southern Brazil, Uruguay, and northern Argentina. One of
Garibaldi's comrades described Anita as "an amalgam of two elemental
forces…the strength and courage of a man and the charm and tenderness of a
woman, manifested by the daring and vigor with which she had brandished her
sword and the beautiful oval of her face that trimmed the softness of her
extraordinary eyes." Anita joined
her husband in the defense of Rome, which fell to a French siege on June 30.
She then fled from French
1844-1868: Sikander Jahan Begum, was a the ruler of Bhopal, India. She
never observed purdah (segregation of women). She was trained in the martial
arts, and fought many battles during her reign (1844-1868). During the
Indian rebellion of 1857, she sided with the British and crushed all those
who revolted against them.
Sarah Borginis. American soldier. Fought in Texas'' struggle for
independence from Mexico in 1846-1848. When the Mexicans began
bombarding Fort Texas (Fort Brown) from their positions at Matamoros,
she was issued a musket. It's said she took an active part in the
ensuing fray, never missing a target. Gen. Zachary Taylor brevetted her
to colonel, making her the first female colonel of the U.S. Army. Later,
she served with General Zachary Talyor and his army of four thousands in
his campaign against the eighteen-thousand-man Mexican army of General
Santa Anna. Sarah achieved the rank of brevet colonel and was given a
full military burial at her death in 1866 - allegedly the first woman to
be a ranking U.S. Army officer, albeit a brevet one. During the war
Sarah Borginis had a sword duel against a man.
1846-1848: Eliza Allen (b. 1826), was a Maine woman who, in 1851,
published a memoir called “The Female Volunteer; Or the Life and
Wonderful Adventures of Miss Eliza Allen, A Young Lady of Eastport,
Maine”. In it, she described her life. Eliza Allen, scion of a
wealthy Maine family,
falls in love with William Billings, a man far below her station and
whom her parents forbid her to see. William leaves in despair to join a
military unit bound for the Mexican-American War, whereupon Eliza
decides to change her appearance to a man and pursue the same course in
hopes of discovering her love again. Eliza serves with General Scott
during his march to Mexico City. She and her fiancé finally meet again
after both are wounded at the Battle of Cerro Gordo, although Eliza, now
known as George Mead, does not reveal her identity, which is apparently
so changed that William does not recognize her.
1847: Queen Victoria decides that women who served aboard British
warships during the Napoleonic Wars would not receive the General Service
Medal. At least three women applied, and many more were technically
eligible. But they were all denied. Explained Admiral Thomas Byam Martin,
“There were many women in the fleet equally useful, and issuing awards to
women will leave the Army exposed to innumerable applications of the same
1848: Louisa Battistati, was a heroine of the insurrection
against Austrian rule that had taken place in Lombardy and which is
known as the Five Days of Milan. The revolt took place during the period
18–22 March 1848 and was successful in expelling the Austrian garrison,
commanded by Josef Radetzky, from the city. Radetzky would re-enter
Milan on 6 August of that year, however, and Austria remained in control
of the city until 1859. She displayed
remarkable courage/ On Sunday, March 10th, she disarmed a cavalry
soldier, though he carried a carbine. She placed herself at the head of
the Poppietti bridge, and steadily continued there, fighting against the
enemy during the rest 3 days, heading a valiant band of young men, and
killing enemies. She defended the large establishment at Vettabia, which
contained 580 persons, being the edifice in which the widows and their
children, and other females took refuge when Barbaressa stormed Milan.
In 1850, she married, and doing duty in the civic guard.
Maharani Jind Kaur (Messalina of the Punjab), (1817 in Chachar,
Gujranwala, Sikh Empire - August 1, 1863 in London, United Kingdom) also
popularly known as Rani Jindan or the Messalina of Punjab. She was the
youngest wife of Maharajah Ranjit Singh and the mother of the last Sikh
Emperor, Maharajah Duleep Singh. In 1845 she became Regent of Punjab for
Duleep Singh. The Queen Mother (or Mai) of the last Sikh sovereign of the
Punjab. She was a military commander and renowned for her 'characteristic
strength of a man qualities'.
Circa 1850: Running Eagle, aka Brown Weasel Woman, was a Blackfoot woman
warrior and a war chief. Having rescued her father after his horse was shot
by an enemy tribe, she was invited to join a warrior society, and acted as a
female war chief. The name Running Eagle was bestowed upon her for her
bravery, She was eventually clubbed to death by members of the Flathead
tribe in 1850 when she was caught trying to steal their horses during a
battle. As Blackfoot men frequently rode naked into battle as a way of
showing that they had nothing to lose by fighting, it cannot be argued that
Running Eagle masqueraded as a man.
It was fairly common for Native American women to participate in
horse-stealing expeditions and hunting. Denig's
"Biography of Woman Chief," written in 1855-56, is one of the rare documents
of female role reversal, excluding cross-dressing but including taking to
herself four wives. The Crow "Woman Chief" is the most famous female
war leader in the history of the upper Missouri tribes.
At the age of 10 she was taken prisoner by the
Crows. Shortly after her capture the warrior to whom she belonged perceived
a disposition in her to assume masculine habits and employments. She was
taller and stronger than most women-her pursuits no doubt tending to develop
strength of nerve and muscle. Long before she had ventured on the warpath
she could rival any of the young men in all their amusements and
occupations, was a capital shot with the rifle, and would spend most of her
time in killing deer and bighorn, which she butchered and carried home on
her back when hunting on foot. After her protector had been killed in
battle, she assumed the charge of his lodge and family, performing the
double duty of father and mother to his children and eventually became a
chief of the tribe of Crows. She headed war excursions against the Blackfeet
for steeling horses and getting scalps. She scalped enemies with her own
hand. Ranking as a warrior and hunter, she could not be brought to think of
female work. It was derogatory to her standing, unsuited to her taste. She
therefore went through the usual formula of Indian marriage to obtain an
authority over the woman thus bought. Strange country this, where males
assume the dress and perform the duties of females, while women turn men and
mate with their own sex.
1851-1868 Mongkut or Rama IV,
Siamese king has a harem which was guarded by a corps of four hundred
amazons in daffodil-colored uniforms. Among the elite of the King's
palace guard, under Mongkut, they were led by
Ma Ying Taphan. Her troops were
considered to be the best trained and most loyal of all the King's
soldiers, never defeated in battle.
1851: Seh-Dong-Hong-Beh, was a leader of the Dahomey female warriors
under King Gezo. In 1851 she led an army of 6,000 women against the Egba
fortress of Abeokuta. Because the women were armed with spears, bows and
swords while the Egba had European cannons only about 1,200 women survived
the extended battle. By 1890, women formed about a
third of the fighting force of the Dahomey people in Africa.
1853-1856: Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), was an English nurse,
writer and statistician. She came to prominence during the Crimean War for
her pioneering work in nursing, and was dubbed "The Lady with the Lamp"
after her habit of making rounds at night to tend injured soldiers.
1857-1858: Lakshmibai, 'The Rani' (Queen) of Jhansi (c.19 1828–1858),
known as Jhansi Ki Rani, was the queen of the Maratha-ruled princely state
of Jhansi, was one of the leading figures of the Indian Rebellion of
1857-1858. She rode into battle armed and armored like a man, and died of
wounds received near Gwalior in June 1858. She became a symbol of resistance
to British rule in India and has gone down in Indian history as a legendary
figure, as India's "Joan of Arc." One of Rani’s counterparts on the British
side was the female leader, Sikander Begum.
1861-1865: Women in the American Civil War. Both the Union and
Confederate armies forbade the enlistment of women. Women who wanted to
serve assumed masculine names and disguised themselves as men. It is
impossible to know with any certainty how many women served in the Civil
War. The estimate is somewhere between 400 and 1000. In some areas of
the country, local women formed Home Guard units in order to protect the
home front while the men and boys were gone. Some of these groups
consisted only of teenagers and young women, who practiced and drilled
and made their own uniforms to look like those worn by male soldiers.
When the war first began, it is written that most of the women enlisted
in order to be close to their husbands, sweethearts, or brothers.
Besides, the most famous female soldiers, there were other hero which
can be traced. Mary Owens served for eighteen
months using the name John Evans. Satronia Smith Hunt enlisted in an
Iowa regiment with her first husband. Mary Stevens Jenkins enlisted in a
Pennsylvania regiment and remained in the army for two years. John
Williams of the Seventeenth Missouri Infantry was discharged from the
army on the grounds: "proved to be a woman." Mrs. S. M. Blaylock spent
two weeks with the Twenty-sixth North Carolina Infantry, before being
discovered. Mary Scaberry, alias Charles Freeman served in the
Fifty-second Ohio Infantry and was discharged from Union service after
her gender was discovered while she was being treated in hospital for a
fever. A teamster and a private in a Union cavalry regiment got drunk
and fell into a river. The soldiers who rescued the pair found out that
they were women in the process of resuscitating them. Mary Galloway was
wounded in the chest during the Battle of Antietam. A woman wearing the
uniform of a Confederate private was found dead on the Gettysburg
battlefield on July 17, 1863. Frances Hook, alias Frank Miller was
discovered after she was wounded and captured by the Confederates.
Madame Collier and Florina Budwin were also prisoners of war.
1861-1864: The ladies of LaGrange,
Georgia, formed a female militia to help protect their town in May of
1861. They called themselves the Nancy Harts in honor of
Georgia's Revolutionary War heroine They called on all available women to
come and bring any guns or pistols they could find. Forty women responded to
the call, meeting to organize at an old red schoolhouse. Nancy Morgan was
elected captain; Andelia Bull, Mary Heard and Aley Smith lieutenants;
Augusta Hill and M.E. Colquitt sergeants; Sally Bull, Leila Pullen and
Caroline Poythress corporals; and Ella Key treasurer. Although a few other
Southern cities armed women briefly in response to local crises, LaGrange's
women are considered unique, because their group would become a
well-organized, disciplined, commissioned military company that would train
regularly for almost three years. Clothed in their regular attire of day
dresses, some in hoops, and their hats, they drilled two days a week. Some
evenings the ladies would drill, followed by loud and boisterous marching
through town to keep the townspeople aware of their
presence. By the end of the war the women had
become sharpshooters and expert markswomen. When a column of Union cavalry
approached LaGrange on April 17, 1865, Lt. Nancy Morgan marched out to meet
the leader to inform him that the women were determined to defend their
families and homes. The following
morning, Colonel LaGrange marched on toward Macon, leaving behind this
gracious Georgia town whose name he chanced to bear. Teary-eyed women bade
farewell to their husbands and sons who had been taken as prisoners of war.
But upon reaching Macon, LaGrange learned of General Lee's surrender and
immediately freed his prisoners.
1961-1865: Loreta Janeta Velazquez
(1842-1897?), a Cuban born woman, who disguised as a male soldier named
Harry T. Buford and served the Confederacy as a double agent during the
American Civil War. She became famous by publishing her memoirs, "'The Woman
in Battle: A Narrative of the Exploits, Adventures, and travels of Madame
Loreta Janeta Velazquez". Everything known about Velazquez comes from her
600-page book. How much of it is true is unknown. Historians have generally
doubted its veracity for the improbability of many of her adventures, her
frequent vagueness or inaccuracy about names and places, and the absence of
any evidence to corroborate her sensational claims. She claimed she met
Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Simon Cameron. She described her
participation in many important battles.
1861-1865: Amy Clarke, one of the most famous Confederate female
soldiers, who served in both cavalry and infantry. At the age of 30, she
enlisted as a private in a cavalry regiment with her husband, Walter, so
she wouldn’t be separated from him. She used the name Richard Anderson.
She fought with Walter until his death at the Battle of Shiloh,
Tennessee, on April 6, 1862. Amy had tired of cavalry life, and decided
to join the infantry. Her request was approved, and Private Richard
Anderson was transferred to the 11th Tennessee Infantry. Her regiment
under General Braxton Bragg fought in many battles. On August 29 1862,
the 11th Tennessee met Federal troops in the Battle of Richmond
Kentucky. Amy was wounded and taken prisoner by the Union Army, and they
discovered that she was a woman. Her wound was treated, and she was
taken to the prison at Cairo, Illinois.
1861-1864: Sarah Rosetta Wakeman (1843–1864), was an American
woman who posed as a man and fought in the American Civil War. By the
time Sarah was 18, she had discovered that she could earn more money if
she disguised herself as a male. Before the war she worked, dressed as a
male, as a coal handler on a canal boat. In 1862, she enlisted under the
alias of Private Lyon/s Wakeman and served in the 153rd Regiment, New
York State Volunteers. Her complete letters describing her experiences
as a female soldier in the Union Army are reproduced in the book, "An
Uncommon Soldier: The Civil War Letters of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman".
1861-1865: Sarah Emma Edmonds (1841–1898), was an Canadian-born woman
who is known for serving with the Union Army during the American Civil War.
During the Civil War, she enlisted in the 2nd Michigan Infantry on her first
try, disguising herself as a man named Franklin Flint Thompson. Extensive
physical examinations were not required for enlistment at the time, and she
was not discovered. She at first served as a male field nurse, participating
in several campaigns under McClellan, including the First Battle of Bull
Run, Antetim, the Pensilur Campaign, Vicksburg, and others.
1861-1865: Nancy Hart Douglas(1843(46)-1913),
was a Confederate spy and soldier. Her mother was first cousin to Andrew
Johnson, who became president after the assassination of President Abraham
Lincoln. The young Ms. Hart soon began serving as a scout for the
Confederacy, and according to some accounts she performed scouting duties
for General "Stonewall" Jackson. She also acted as a spy, posing as a farm
girl who offered the sale of vegetables and eggs to Federal troops. After
learning what she could, she then reported her findings about the enemy's
plans and activity in the region. Not long after a large reward was offered
for her capture in 1862, Ms. Hart was apprehended by Union forces lead by
Lt. Col. Starr, 9th West Virginia, and held prisoner in a make-shift jail.
Ms. Hart was a striking young brunette, of exception beauty, which is
credited with playing havoc with the Union guards. During one evening she
managed to grab the pistol from her naive young guard, with which she shot
the guard dead with a single shot. Leaping out an open 2nd-story window, and
stealing Lt. Co. Starr's horse, she managed to escape behind Confederate
lines. About a week later, on July 25, 1862, Nancy Hart guided forces in an
attack against the federal forces at Summersville, consisting of 200
Confederates, led by Major R. Augustus Bailey, of Patton's 22nd Virginia
Infantry. During the engagement many of building in Summersville were
burned, and Lt. Col. Starr was among the Federals taken prisoner.
1861-1865: Mary Edwards Walker (1832-1919), was an American feminist,
abolitionist, prohibitionist, alleged spy, prisoner of war, surgeon, and the
first and the only woman to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.When the Civil War broke out, she went to Washington and tried to
join the Union Army. She was denied a commission as a medical officer but
volunteered anyway, serving unpaid as an acting assistant surgeon, the first
female surgeon in the U.S. Army.
1861-1865: Jennie Irene Hodgers (1843-1915),
In 1862, Hodgers disguised herself as a man Albert Cashier and enlisted in
the 95th Illinois Infantry Regiment under the name Albert Cashier. The
regiment was under Ulysses S. Grant and fought in over 40 battles. Cashier
managed to remain undetected as the other soldiers thought she was just
small and preferred to be alone. Cashier was captured in battle but managed
to escape back to Union lines after overpowering a guard. She fought with
the regiment through the war until 1865. After the war, Cashier continued to
live as a male, convincing everyone around her. For forty years Cashier
worked as a church janitor, cemetery worker and street lamplighter, she
voted as a man, and claimed a veteran's pension.
1861-1865: Malinda Blalock(b.1842),
female soldier during the American Civil War who fought bravely on both
sides. When the war started, rather than be separated from her husband
Keith, she decided to disguise herself as a man and join the army too. She
was officially registered on March 20, 1862, as “Samuel ‘Sammy’ Blalock” –
claiming to be the older brother of her husband. Her registration papers are
one of the few surviving records of female soldiers in the Civil War.
Malinda was a good soldier and her identity was never revealed. One of the
army surgeons said of her: “She drilled and did the duties of a soldier as
any other member of the Company, and was very adept at learning the manual
and drill.” Eventually the couple deserted from the army.
Mrs. Frances Clayton, was an American soldier from Minnesota who served as a male Frank Martin. It wasn't difficult for
Frances (mother of three) to convincingly play the part of a man. She was
tall and masculine, and had tan skin. She was reported to be a good horseman
and swordsman, and the way she carried herself in stride was soldierly,
erect, and masculine. She was well trained and knew her duties well, and was
a respected person who commanded attention in the way she acted. To better
conceal her sex, Frances took up all the manly vices. She learned to drink,
smoke, chew, and swear, and was especially fond of cigars. She even gambled,
and a fellow soldier declared that he had played poker with her on a number
of occasions. Frances is known to have fought in the Battle of Fort Donelson
in Tennessee, February 13, 1862, where the Union won after three days of
fighting. The spouses served side by side until the Battle of Stones River
on December 31, 1862. Elmer was only a few feet in front of Frances when he
was killed, but she didn't stop fighting. Frances was later wounded in the
hip. Her true identify was found when she entered the hospital, and she was
discharged January 2, 1863. Frances was on a
train home when it was attacked by guerrillas. She was robbed of her papers,
and decided to re-enlist.She was wounded three times while fighting bravely for her
country, and was once taken prisoner.
1861-1865: Kady Brownell (1842-1915) helped the Union army during the
American Civil War. She went with her husband when he joined a Rhode Island
regiment. Kady trained with the soldiers. She fought in battle and helped
the injured. Kady was determined to enlist with her husband Robert; she
approached Governor Sprague who agreed to take her along to Washington and
there met up with Robert. She was appointed as a Daughter of the Regiment
and color bearer. She was an active participant in the battles of First Bull
Run in 1861 (she held the flag high even as Confederate bullets were flying)
and after re-enlisting into the 5th RI Regiment with her new husband Robert
Brownell, at New Bern (1862). Following the
Civil War, Kady was the only female to receive discharge papers from the
In the summer of 1862, the girls of Rhea County in Tennessee created the
only female cavalry.
These girls were frustrated because their gender prevented them from
enlisting in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. They named their
unit the Rhea County Spartans. Almost all of the “sidesaddle
soldiers,” as they were called, had fathers
or brothers in the Confederate Army. Being all from prominent families in
the area, the girls practiced and drilled.
Mary McDonald, one of the oldest of the group, was elected captain and
Caroline McDonald, her sister-in-law, became first lieutenant.
1862-1865: Jennie Hodgers,
aka Albert D. J. Cashier (1844-1915), was an Irish immigrant. As the Civil
War escalated in July of 1862, President Abraham Lincoln sent out a call for
an additional 300,000 men to serve in the Union Army. Although she was not a
man, illiterate 19 year-old Jennie Hodgers wanted to help her country. On
August 6, 1862, she enlisted in the Union Army as an infantryman in the
Ninety-Fifth Illinois Infantry Regiment. She was five feet, three inches
tall - the shortest person in her regiment - and weighed 110 pounds. Jennie
passed a physical examination - just a quick look at the eyes and ears, no
undressing involved. At that moment Jennie Hodgers was transformed into
Albert D. J. Cashier, Private First Class. Over the next three years, the
95th Regiment traveled thousands of miles and took part in forty battles,
including the siege of Vicksburg and the Red River Campaign. When she was
captured by a Confederate soldier during the Vicksburg Campaign, she knocked
his gun out of his hand and ran away.
1862-1864: Mary and Mollie Bell, aliases Bob Martin and Tom Parker, were adolescent farm girls from Virginia.
The girls decided to conceal their sex and enlist in a cavalry regiment
under the command of Confederate General Jubal Early. The Bells served for
two years, and earned the respect of their comrades for their bravery. Mary
was promoted to the rank of Sergeant, and Mollie to the rank of Corporal.
The girls hid their true identity with the help of their captain, but he was
captured in 1864, and the Bells made the mistake
of telling their secret to a lieutenant, who told General Early. The sisters
were falsely accused of being prostitutes, briefly imprisoned, and later
sent home, still in uniform.
1863-1865: Mollie Bean, was a North Carolina woman who, pretending to be
a man, joined a unit of the Confederate army in the American Civil War. She
was captured in uniform by Union forces outside Richmond, Virginia, in
February 17, 1865, shortly before the end of the
war. She may have fought at the Battle
of Gettysburg. Despite the fact that she had
been wounded twice in her two years’ service for the Confederate Army, she
was accused of being "manifestly crazy," but also of being a spy, and was
incarcerated at Castle Thunder.
1865: James Barry
(1795-1865), was a British woman who masqueraded as a man in order to work
as a medical doctor in the British Army. Her real name is believed to be Margaret Ann Bulkley.
She was the Inspector General of the British Army Medical Department.
1866: Cathay Williams (1844-1892), was an American soldier. She was the
first African American female to enlist, and the only documented to serve in
the United States Army posing as a man under the pseudonym, William Cathay.
Despite the prohibition against women serving in the military, Williams
enlisted in the United States Regular Army on 15 November 1866 at St. Louis,
Missouri for a three year engagement, passing herself off as a man.
1866-1879: Sylvia Mariotti, served as a
private in the 11th Battalion of the Italian Bersaglieri from 1866 to 1879.
She fought the Austrians in the Battle of Custozza.
1868: Two French women named Marie P. and Aimée R. dueled with pistols over
which would get to marry a young man from Bordeaux. Marie was hit in the
thigh with the first shot, leaving Aimée free to marry the young man. (Or so
said the popular press.)
1860s: Anna Henryka Pustowojtowna (1843-1881), was a Polish nationalist
who fought in Poland under Marian Langiewicz. She disguised herself as a man
and went by the alias Michal Smok. After her capture and release she moved
to France, and was active in the Paris Commune of 1870. She died in Paris.
Circa 1870: Eliza Alicia Lynch
(1835-1886), was the Irish-born mistress of Francisco Solano López,
president of Paraguay. Eliza Lynch followed Lopez during the entire war
against Brazilians and led a group of women, composed of the soldier's
wives, daughters, and others, who supported the soldiers called "Las
Residentas". This group became famous in the
Battle of Cerro Cora in 1870 when López was finally killed. After the Brazilian
forces killed López and her son and took Eliza as prisoner South fighter in
Jeanne Merkus(1839–1897), was a Dutch adventurer. She was a
daughter of the General Governor of Netherland's West India. Early having
lost her parents, she determined to become a female hero and called herself 'Dutch
Jeanne d'Arc'. In 1862-1869, she lived with the feminist and novelist
Catharina van Rees. The partners became infamous by their extravagant and
In 1869, they have broken it off and
Merkus started travelling through Europe and Middle East being involved in
Christian movements. During the Franco-German war of 1870-1871, she worked
for Red Cross in France helping wounded. During Paris Commune in 1971, she
fought on the side of the left insurrectionists. In 1875-1876, she
participated in the war between Christians in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the
Turks. She rode a horse, wore men's attires and smoked cigars. During the
war, she came together with Bosnian Serb émigré leader, Mićo Ljubibratić.
After the Christian defeat, the lovers moved to Austria. Her adventures in
Balkans are described in the book by Rebecca West "Black Lamb and Grey
1870s: Lozen (c.1840-1890), was the sister of the Chihenne-Chiricahua
Apache chief, Victorio (Bidu-ya; Beduiat). Lozen was a skilled warrior and a
prophet. According to legends, she was able to use her powers (Diya) and (Inda-ce-ho-ndi:
"Enemies-Against-Power") in battle to learn the movements of the enemy.
Victorio is quoted to have said that "Lozen is my right hand... strong as a
man, braver than most, and cunning in strategy. Lozen is a shield to her
1871: Louise Michel (1830-1905), was a French anarchist, school teacher
and medical worker. She sometimes used the pseudonym Clémence and was also
known as the red virgin of Montmartre. In 1871, she led women of the commune
who banded together, armed themselves and joined the fighting as an all
female brigade. During the Siege of Paris she untiringly preached resistance
to the Prussians. On the establishment of the Commune, she joined the
National Guard. She offered to shoot Thiers, and suggested the destruction
of Paris by way of vengeance for its surrender. She was with the Communards
who made their last stand in the cemetery of Montmartre. Victor Hugo
dedicated his poem to Michel, Viro Major. This ardent attachment was perhaps
one of the sources of the exaltation which marked her career, and gave many
handles to her enemies. In December 1871, she was brought before the 6th
council of war, charged with offences including trying to overthrow the
government, encouraging citizens to arm themselves, and herself using
weapons and wearing a military uniform. She spent twenty months in prison
and was sentenced to deportation.
1884-1900: Ella Hatton, master of sword combat, a daughter of an English
father and a Spanish mother. Since young age, she trained in the sword arts
- fencing and fighting with knife, rapier, foil and broadsword and engaged
in her first public fencing match in 1884 in Chicago. The
Jaguarina, as she was known, came to
specialize in mounted broadsword combat, and earned the titles "Queen of the
Sword," "The Ideal Amazon of the Age," and "Champion Amazon of the World."
In a career spanning 1884-1900, this professional athlete's record is
impressive: she won 134 out of 135 duels with men.
1885-1888: In August 1888, London Telegraph reported about several
women’s duels in the article “French Women duelists”. In 1885, Mlle de
Valsayre, the vigorous champion of woman’s rights, fought with an American
lady on the Belgian frontier. In 1888, two ladies had a bout with unbuttoned
foils at Boudreaux. About same time, an elegant theater visitor in Paris in
masculine attire was insulted by a man who didn’t know her. In order not to
be discovered, she pretended to be a foreigner and took two dragoons as her
seconds. The duel took place in the Boi de Boulogne and the man was wounded
to his wrist.
1892: The most intriguing duel ever fought between women, took place in August
1892 in Vaduz, the capitol of Liechtenstein, between Princess Pauline
Metternich and the Countess Kielmannsegg. It has gone down in history as
the first “emancipated duel” (see the title illustration) because all
parties involved, including the principals and
seconds were female and because the duelists fought topless. The weapon chosen in the duel was sword. In the
third round the princess got a cut on her nose. At the same time as the
countess was slightly injured in her arm. The seconds (two other noble
ladies) then quickly declared the duel ended and Princess Metternich was
declared a victor. The reason why the women came to arms in the first place
- they disagreed over the floral arrangements for an upcoming musical
exhibition. Interestingly, the confrontation was organized and presided over
by the Baroness Lubinska, who had a degree in medicine (a rarity for
a woman in those days) and was prepared to treat any wounds incurred. Before
the proceedings began, the baroness pointed out that many insignificant
injuries in duels often became septic due to strips of clothing being driven
into the wound by the point of a sword. To counter this danger she prudently
suggested that both parties should fight stripped of any garments above the
waist. Certainly, Baroness Lubinska was ahead of her time, taking an even
more radical take on the (at the time) widely dismissed theories of British
surgeon Joseph Lister, who in 1870 revolutionized surgical procedures with
the introduction of antiseptic...
1892 -1901: Private
bare-breasted sword all-female duels
took place in the late Victorian era. Women stripped of all garments
above the waist to engage in small sword fighting as it was believed that a
thrust to the body through the corset could result in unintentional,
additional injury and infection. Besides, the decision to unbutton
the tops of their dresses was not sexual; it was simply a way of preventing
a duel of first blood from becoming a duel to the death.
This risky activity was a kind of challenge to
Victorian social norms and stereotype boundaries. It celebrated female
aggression and femininity, as well as women emancipation.
Martha Jane Canary-Burke, better known as Calamity Jane
(1852–1903), was a frontierswoman, prostitute, and professional scout best
known for her claim of being an acquaintance of Wild Bill Hickok, but also
for having gained fame fighting Native American Indians. She exhibited
kindness and compassion towards others, especially the sick and needy, but
she was an alcoholic and traded sexual favors for money. This contrast
helped to make her a famous and infamous frontier figure.
1895: Theodore Roosevelt hires the New York Police Department’s first female
employee, Minnie Kelly. The reason was that she did more work for less
money than did the two male secretaries she replaced. In 1896, Commissioner
Roosevelt also gave uniforms and badges to the women who processed female
prisoners at police stations. Excepting meter maids and secretaries, police
departments used women mainly as matrons and vice detectives until 1968,
when the Indianapolis police pioneered the use of female patrol officers.
1897-1899: Agueda Kahabagan y Iniquinto ("Henerala Agueda" or "Tagalog
Joan of Arc"), was the first General in the Philippine Revolutionary Army
fighting against Spain. Henerala's bravery in battle was legendary. She was
reportedly often seen in the battlefield dressed in white, armed with a
rifle and brandishing a bolo. Apparently she was commissioned by General
Miguel Malvar to lead a detachment of forces sometime in May 1897. She was
mentioned in connection with the attack led by General Artemio Ricarte on
the Spanish garrison in San Pablo in October 1897. It was most probably
General Pio del Pilar who recommended that she be granted the honorary title
of Henerala. In March 1899, she was listed as the only woman in the roster
of generals of the Army of the Philippine Republic.
1898: Nehanda Charwe Nyakasikana (c.1840-1898), was a svikiro, or spirit
medium of the Shona people. As one of the spiritual leaders of the Shona,
she provided inspiration for their revolt against the British South Africa
Company colonization of Mashonaland and Matabeleland (now Zimbabwe) in June
1896, It became known as the First Chimurenga or Second Matabele War. The
rebellion, in Mashonaland at least, was encouraged by traditional religious
leaders including Nyakasikana. After the end of the rebellion in 1897, she
was captured. Nyakasikana was charged with the murder of Native Commissioner
Pollard. She was found guilty after eye-witnesses claimed that she ordered
an associate to chop Pollard's head off, and was hanged
1898: Teresa Magbanua y Ferraris (1868-1947), was a Philippines
commander. She earned the distinction of being the only woman to lead combat
troops in the Visayas against Spanish and American forces. Born in Pototan,
Iloilo, Philippines on 13 October 1868, to wealthy parents, she earned a
teaching degree and taught in her hometown. Having come from a family of
revolutionaries, she immediately volunteered her services to the motherland
and became an exceptional horseman and marksman. She led a large group of
men in the Battle of Barrio Yoting, Capiz in early December 1898. She
outfought the Spanish troops at the Battle of Sapong Hills near Sara.
Exclusive of the Female Sinfle Combat Club
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