Before Wonder Woman, there were thousands of impressive women warriors all over the world that paved the way for strong independent women of today. These female warriors used their strength (both physical and mental) to join wars, rebellions, and battles during times when women were largely undervalued. What we’ve learned from reading about all these fierce ladies is: Do not underestimate women!
The Onna-Bugeisha: The Japanese Female Samurai
Today, samurai warriors are usually thought of as being men, but there was a group of female samurai before these men known as Onna-bugeisha. They fought alongside their male counterparts in battle and were held to the same standards.
Tomoe Gozen was one particularly badass female samurai who organized battles with her battlefield talent and intelligence. She specialized in katana fighting and horseback riding. Eventually, her skills and fearlessness earned her the title of general. The Onna-Bugeisha are the picture of strength and bravery. Women rock!
Ana Nzinga: The Protector
Ana Nzinga was a queen of the African state now known as Angola in the early 1600s. She protected her people against rival attacks by forming alliances with Portugal. Eventually, her allies turned on her and she escaped to another kingdom where she slowly rebuilt her army from runaway slaves and African soldiers.
She finally organized a peace treaty with Portugal. This queen used intelligence, planning, and perseverance to bring peace to her people. She used her position of power and spent her entire life fighting for peace for Angola.
Khutulun: The Wrestler Princess
Khutulun was the great-great-granddaughter of Ghengis Khan and made a name for herself as a wrestler of great strength. In the 13th century, no man or woman could beat this “wrestler princess”.
She made lots of money wrestling, but also fought alongside her father on the battlefield. Marco Polo compared her speed on the battlefield to a hawk with its prey. A dominant wrestler, talented horseback rider, and fearless fighter; what can’t this woman do?
Rani Velu Nachiyar: The Tamil Warrior
Rani Velu Nachiyar was one of the first women to join the fight against British colonialism in India. When she was just a child she learned to use weapons, practice martial arts, and shoot a bow and arrow.
If that’s not impressive enough, she also formed an army to avenge her husband and daughter’s deaths and successfully destroyed her enemies. She was an influential fighter for India and an inspiration to women everywhere!
The Dahomey Amazons
For almost 200 years, a fierce group of female warriors known as the Dahomey Amazons fought for a king in the Republic of Benin. They were known for using clubs, knives, and razors as long as 3-feet to defeat their enemies.
The Dahomey Amazons were respected (and feared) for their ferocious battle tactics. Apparently, they were followed by a bell that rang everywhere they went to let men and women know to look away and step out of their path. We wouldn’t want to get in their way on a bad day!
Policarpa Salavarrieta: The Seamstress
Policarpa Salavarrieta, or La Pola, was a defiant woman who fought to protect Columbia from Spanish rule. Her weapon of choice was intelligence. La Pola would pose as a houservant and seamstress for Spanish households where she would gather intel and pass it on to her people.
While gathering information from the homes of Spanish officers, she was actually sewing uniforms for Columbian freedom fighters. Also, she would pretend to flirt with Spanish soldiers to convince them to join the rebels. She inspired several other women along the way and made a huge impact in the rebellion without touching a weapon (unless you count sewing needles).
Ching Shih: The Chinese Pirate
Ching Shih took over her husband’s fleet of ships when he died and successfully headed one of Asia’s biggest pirate crews. She is known for enforcing the strictest pirate codes to ever exist. Her goal was to get rich and she used all the usual pirate tactics: extortion, blackmail, etc.
Her fleet was such a force that the Chinese government stepped in to defeat it. But they were unsuccessful. In the end, the government was forced to offer Ching Shih a truce. She earned forgiveness for herself and most of her men and secured jobs in the armed forces for many of them. A pirate’s life indeed!
The Night Witches
The Night Witches were an all-female group of talented fighter pilots tasked with fighteing Nazi pilots. They earned their name for their almost supernatural ability to fly in pitch black conditions.
They would turn their engines off and glide towards their target in silence, using the element of surprise to their advantage. They were feared by their enemy. One German commander wrote, “These women feared nothing”. We have to agree. These women were, quite frankly, awesome.
Lyudmila Pavlichenko: The Sniper
Lyudmila Pavlichenko is one of the most famous female snipers of all time, serving in World War II for the soviets. In only a year, she racked up 309 kills, many of which were enemy snipers. Because women weren’t allowed in the military at the time, she had to sneak her way in and essentially beg for an opportunity to showcase her skills.
She was allowed an “audition” in which she had to shoot down two enemies and let’s just say, she didn’t miss. She was known for her calm nature behind the sniper. After only a year, she was promoted and pulled from combat.
Princess Pingyang was the daughter of a general who was plotting to take the Emperor down. The general sent the princess and her husband away to protect her from the gruesome rebellion that was about to take place.
Rather than go quietly, Princess Pingyang raised hundreds of troops to join her father and the rebellion. She did not allow her army to harm civilians, which resulted in her gaining many loyal followers. When her father became emperor, she was given the title of princess. Oh, and by the way, she was only 20 years old at the time!
Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc is perhaps one of the most famous women warriors in history. She convinced the men in charge to let her command a French army with no military training.She was a natural military leader, leading French troops against the English to victory.
As she collected victories, she gained more and more respect as a military leader. In the Hundred Years’ War, she disguised herself as a man for an entire year, fighting bravely alongside her troops. She was captured and killed at only 19 years old, but she is now regarded as a patron saint of France.