Top 10 Badass Women in Military History
Women are still often stereotyped as the homemaker, the one that takes care of the children and the household while the husband earns a living. This antiquated way of thinking may never completely go away, but the stories of these ten women - these military badasses throughout history - help to put a different spin on the role of women in society.
Joan of Arc
There’s a reason several women on this list were named the Joan of Arc of their country. While living as a peasant girl in France, Jeanne d’Arc claimed to have seen visions of the Archangel Michael, Saint Margaret, and Saint Catherine of Alexandria, who instructed her to assist in recovering France from English dominion during the Hundred Years’ War. Under King Charles VII’s orders, Joan aided in ending the siege of Orleans and is believed to have provided strategic advice to the Duke of Alencon and engaged in the Battle of Jargeau, Battle of Patay, and much more. Due to her alleged successes and possible divine connection, Joan gained a following until her untimely death at the hands of the English. After her capture at Compiegne, Joan was tried for heresy and burned at the stake.
Cut Nyak Dhien
From 1873 to 1904, the Sultanate of Aceh and the Kingdom of the Netherlands were engaged in a lengthy war known as the Aceh War, or Dutch War. One key player was an unexpected former aristocrat known as Cut Nyak Dhien. Awarded the title of National Hero of Indonesia long after her death, Dhien earned the respect of her people by being a formidable leader of the Acehnese guerilla forces. Though she was captured by Dutch forces and later exiled, Dhien’s efforts during the war assisted in resisting the Dutch until her small band of forces was eradicated in 1901.
During the Greek War of Independence, Laskarina Bouboulina made a name for herself by becoming the only woman to join the underground organization Filiki Etairia. During the Greek revolution against the Turks, Laskarina amassed a small fleet of 8 ships and helmed the Agamemnon, one of the largest vessels in the Greek revolution. Among her fleet’s crowning achievements was assisting with the capture of a fortress on Nafplion, assisting in the blockade and capture of Pylos, and providing supplies to revolutionaries. The siege of Nafplion was believed to have been successful due to Laskarina’s attack on Monemvasia and the revolutionary leader is honored as having played an important role in the Greeks gaining their independence.
Noble men and women are known for their elegant attire and distinguished personalities, but there are those in history that are more than just a pretty face. Caterina Sforza was one such Italian noblewoman - Countess of Forli and Lady of Imola. Caterina took an interest in alchemy, hunting, and personally helping defend against Venetian forces. During Cesare Borgia’s raid of Forli, Caterina sealed herself inside of Ravaldinos Fortress after absolving her citizens, who feared for their safety, of their fealty to the city and engaged in a stand-off against the pursuing forces. Catarina defended the fortress for several days, inflicting heavy losses on the French before Cesare’s forces breached the walls and took Caterina captive.
Agustina de Aragon
As the French encroached further into Spanish territory and the King of Spain was imprisoned, it became the duty of every Spaniard to take up arms against their enemy. Among the many that enlisted, Agustina de Aragon, was a girl described as “ordinary and motivated by war.” Despite not being overly patriotic, Agustina was revered as a leader and savior, especially after her capture and escape from the French, quickly rose to the rank of Captain, and became famously known as the Duke of Wellington’s only female officer and the “Spanish Joan of Arc.” Agustina’s efforts and successes in the Spanish War of Independence earned her stories in local folklore and mythology and made her the subject of many pieces of art.
During the 17th century, the South African Republic, known today as Angola, was divided into the Ndongo and Matamba kingdoms. Ruling them both was Queen Nzinga Mbande, who came to power after the suicide of her brother King Ngola Mbandi and death of his son. When she took the title of Queen, Portugal sought to colonize Luanda to gain control of the African slave trade. In doing so, it entered into a lengthy stand-off with the new stubborn queen. Nzinga may not have personally engaged Portugal’s soldiers herself, but her tenacity kept the intruding colony from ruling over the colony of Matamba, which she actually took from Queen Mwongo Matamba.
Polish noblewoman Countess Emilia Plater may not have engaged in any large-scale or major battles during the November 1830 Uprising, but her place in the Polish insurgent forces turned her into a heroine to her home country. At the age of 25, Emilia made the decision to join the uprising. To assist her fellow countrymen, the young soldier banded together her own group of volunteers and entered the skirmish. While not involved in any major battles, it is believed that her unit seized the town of Zarasai and took part in the battles of Prastavoniai and Maisiagala. Emilia was honored with the ranking of Captain of the 1st company of the Polish-Lithuanian 25th Infantry Regiment, but her leadership was short lived as she soon after succumbed to a sudden illness.
This 13th-century princess would likely not make for a good Disney princess, but she fits the billing of a bad-ass woman. Descendant of Genghis Khan and daughter of Kaidu Khan, Khutulun was a great warrior known for being able to swiftly ride into enemy lines, grab her intended mark, and escape without harm. Alongside Kaidu Khan, Khutulun fought against the Yuan Dynasty and, specifically, her cousin Kublai. Many accounts of the great princess actually come from off the battlefield as she was known to force any potential suitor to either defeat her in wrestling or forfeit a horse. Khutulun allegedly won 10,000 horses but was believed to have eventually married to curb rumors of an incestuous relationship with her father.
Maria Quiteria de Jesus
During the Brazilian War of Independence, Maria Quiteria did what any patriotic individual would do, donned the proper uniform, and served during 1822 and 1823. The biggest difference between Maria and other soldiers is that the heroine dressed as a man to join the war against the United Kingdom of Portugal. Maria’s service saw her decorated with the Imperial order and promoted to cadet and Lieutenant and her bravado earned her the title of the Brazilian Joan of Arc. In 1953, nearly 100 years after her death, Maria was named patron of the Brazilian Army.
During times of conflict, women are often left behind to tend to the household, but that doesn’t mean every woman is willing to sit back and experience the war from afar. Elizabeth Newcom was an unmarried American lass during the Mexican-American War and was determined to find the best way to support the troops – so she joined the Missouri Volunteer Infantry in 1847. To do so, as women were not allowed to join the infantry, Elizabeth had to disguise herself as Bill Newcom. It took over 600 miles of marching for “Bill” to get discovered, and though she was dismissed from service, she continued to work for the Army in an unknown position.