Women in Wars -- Introduction-- Women's History Month


As I thought about Women's History Month I knew I wanted to really touch on women in history that may be forgotten. Today women are members of the Armed Forces, but not that long ago they were not allowed. I decided I would focus on women who played important roles in wars. This month I will share about women in the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and the two World Wars. Today I thought I would start with some women who fought wars before America was a country. I have focused on the legend of Mulan in the past. She is one of the women who reportedly disguised herself as a man to fight in a war. Then there was the Greek goddess, Athena, who was the goddess of war, as well as the Amazons, the race of women warriors in Greek mythology. Even the Aztecs had a warrior goddess, Itzpapalotl. Then we know of Joan of Arc and how she led the French army through battles. And we shared about Artemisia in the past. Today let's talk about some of the other women you may not have heard about that fought in real wars and battles. As I started researching women in wars I found The Book of Heroines: Tales of History's Gutsiest Gals by Stephanie Warren Drimmer. All of the women, goddesses and legends mentioned in this post are featured in this book. This book is one of the sources for my entire post. I will list others that I used to find out more about the women and share books for kids when possible. (Note: I have not checked out these books but found them searching my local library website and Amazon.)


Let's start with the Scythians. They were a nomadic people in Euroasia from the 7th century B.C. through the 3rd century B.C. They were known for their warfare as well as equestrian skills. When they fought most of the adults in the tribe fought including the women. Apparently it was said that no people in Europe or Asia could resist the Scythians without outside aid. They were that powerful! There are some books on Amazon on these people but there are not really kid books.

Trung Sisters 

Statue of the Trung Sisters by Amore Mio at English Wikipedia,
  CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Next we will talk about the Trung Sisters of Vietnam. It is 40 A.D. and Vietnam is being ruled harshly by China. During this time women in Vietnam were allowed some freedoms like inheriting property through their mother's line, becoming judges, political leaders, traders, and warriors. Many of these freedoms were later taken away from women. The daughters of a lord gathered armies to fight the Chinese and take back their country. The eldest sister was Trung Trac and the younger one was Trung Nhi. Trung Trac was married to Thi Sach who was also a powerful lord. However Thi Sach was killed when the local government learned about the plans to revolt. Trung Nhi joined her sister and lead the revolt with an army of 80,000 people. After their victory Trung Trac was named the ruler. Her name was changed to Trung Vuong or She-King Trung. She abolished the tribute taxes. She and her sister fought off the Chinese government for three years. Sadly they were defeated in 43 A.D. Legend says they followed the Vietnamese honor and committed suicide before being defeated. Some say they drowned themselves in the river and others say they walked into the clouds. The two women are still honored in Vietnam. There is even a holiday in February to honor them as well as many temples named after them and of course the statue pictured above. Additional Sources: Trưng sisters - Wikipedia.  Female Hero: The Trung Sisters (Women in World History Curriculum).


Boudicca Statue by No machine-readable author provided. Lily15 assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Next we will look at Boudicca. Boudicca was a Celtic queen who led a revolt against the Romans in 60 A.D. She was queen of the Iceni tribe. She was married to Prasustagus. In his will he left his kingdom to his daughters and the Roman emperor. When he died however his will was ignored. His land was annexed and property divided up. By some reports (Roman ones) his daughters were rapped and Boudicca was flogged. Boudicca led the Iceni to fight back. Some of her soldiers didn't even have weapons! The Iceni won battles in three cities. It is said 70,000-80,000 Romans and Iceni died in those three battles. However one of the Roman leaders regrouped and defeated them even with a smaller army. Boudicca either killed herself (to avoid capture) or died from illness after being defeating. Additional Source: Boudica - Wikipedia.


Queen Zenobia Addressing Her Soldiers sc1080
Queen Zenobia Addressing Her Soldiers by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

Queen Zenobia took over the throne when her husband was assassinated around 267 A.D. Unlike her husband she decided to take the kingdom back from Roman control. In 269 she led a revolt against the Romans. She led her army to seize Egypt and conquered other lands. She controlled important trade routes and issued coins stamped with her image. Around 274 Emperor Aurelian defeated her. She ruled an empire that is present day Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. She ruled over a diverse nation and protected the Christians and Jews even though she was a Pagan. Additional Source: Zenobia - Wikipedia.


Qutulun daughter of Qaidu
Qutulun Daughter of Qaidu by Maître de la Mazarine, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Khutulun was the great-great-granddaughter of Genghis Khan. Khutulun's father, Kaidu, believed in the old Mongol ways whereas his uncle, Kublai Khan, wanted to govern well and into politics. The two began fighting among themselves and by fighting I mean warring. Kaidu's main resource for leading his war was not one of his fourteen sons but his daughter, Khutulun. She grew up with great skill on horses and shooting bows but was even more amazing of a wrestler. Marco Polo wrote descriptions of Khutulun from his travels. It is documented by Marco Polo and others that when Kaidu wanted Khutulun married she only agreed to get married if the man would wrestle her. If he won she would marry him. If she won she would get his horse. She ended up with 1,000 horses. Apparently rumors were started about her and it was taking a toll on the family's reputation. She did settle down with someone but there is debate as to whom. Although her father tried to have her be his heir as the next Khan leader it was fought. After his death her story seems to have been forgotten for awhile. However the traditional Mongolian wrestling outfits is open chested to be sure the opponent is not a woman in honor of the undefeated Khutulun. Additional Source: Khutulun: The Wrestler Princess (

Agustina de Aragón

Agustina de aragon4red
Agustina de Aragon by Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau,
  CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Agustina de Aragon was known as the Spanish Joan of Arc. She helped beat back Napoléon Bonaparte from Spain. The French army was attacking Spain and several cities were taken. When the army was attacking Zaragoza the Spanish were frightened. The city only had outdated cannons for protection and they were outnumbered. They began to break ranks and hide in fear. At this time Agustina happened to be delivering apples to the gunmen. She was disgusted by the cowardice of the Spanish soldiers and went to one of the abandoned cannons and loaded it and lit the fuse. She annihilated a group of French soldiers approaching. When the Spanish soldiers saw a twenty-two year old woman arming the cannon by herself they gained the courage to fight. The Spanish army managed to keep the French out of the city. Under the leadership of Agustina they began a counterattack on the French. The French eventually caught her and imprisoned her. After witnessing them killing her friend, she escaped from the prison though. She ran off and joined Spanish guerrilleros that were organizing attacks on French supply station and trains. This slowed the French army down. The Spanish were joined by the Portuguese and British. The Duke of Wellington partnered with Agustina and even gave her command of a front-line unit. She was his only female officer. In 1813 they were able to crush Napoleon's army. Additional Source: History's Badasses: Agustina of Aragon ( 

Nakano Takeko

Nakano Takeko Statue by Torstein Barnhardt, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

At a young age Nakano Takeko excelled at martial arts. Although she was alive in a time when Japanese women were to keep house and cook, she trained in martial arts and eventually was adopted by her instructor, Akaoka Daisuke. She taught along side him in the 1860s. When a civil war broke out in Japan she wanted to join the Aizu army but was not allowed to because she was female. She formed a female army called Aizu Joshitai. In 1868 the Tokugawa wanted to surrender but the Aizu people refused to give up. Against orders Nakano led her army into battle. It is believed that she killed five soldiers before she was shot and killed. She had asked her sister to cut off her head rather than letting the enemy take it as a trophy. In Japan she is remembered for her bravery and courage. There is a monument for her at the Hokai Temple and at the Aizu Autumn Festival girls wear hakama and shiro headbands and parade around in memory of her and her army. Additional Source: Women Warriors: Nakano Takeko – Yamato Magazine (

Buffalo Calf Road Woman

Buffalo Calf Road Woman
Buffalo Calf Road Woman

Buffalo Calf Road Woman was a Cheyenne warrior woman. Her brother was Comes in Sight. She decided to ride with the warriors to the Battle of the Rosebud although many of the men didn't want her to ride with them. General Crook and his army were advancing on their village.  At one point she saw her brother trapped by the American soldiers. She rode down to the gully where he was and pulled him onto her horse and brought him to safety even with all the bullets flying around her. The male warriors were impressed since none of them had the guts to try to save him. They named the battle after her and called her Brave Woman. A week later during a battle with General Custer against the Cheyenne, and other tribes, Buffalo Calf Road Woman rode with the male warriors and fought with them. She managed to save the life of a young warrior again. Over months the Cheyenne kept being attacked. Many surrendered but Buffalo Calf Road Woman joined the group of thirty or so who refused. At this point she was pregnant and gave birth to her second child. The conditions became so bad that the group surrendered for the promise of new land. After a long march they arrived on land in Oklahoma which was far different from their land. There was also great disease there. A group of 300 or so Cheyenne including Buffalo Calf Road Woman decided to return to their land. They left at night by foot and walked about 1,500 miles. They were attacked by the army throughout the walk and Buffalo Calf Road Woman continued to fight with the men. Once arriving they split into two groups due to disagreements on how to proceed. One group headed for Red Cloud's Lakota village but they were captured and imprisoned. They escaped from the prison but were massacred. The soldiers killed over 65 Cheyenne men, women and children. The other group was led by Chief Little Wolf and included Buffalo Calf Road Woman and her family. They managed to hide in the Sand Hills of Nebraska, but Buffalo Calf Road Woman's husband killed Black Crane during an argument due to his own madness that was developing. He was banned and his family went with him. Both groups were eventually captured. She was imprisoned at Fort Keogh where she died. Additional Source: Buffalo Calf Road, Heroic Cheyenne Warrior Woman | Amazing Women In History

That is the first of our exploration of women in wars. Next week we will focus on women in the Revolutionary War (USA). I hope you will join us!

Entire Series: