5 Historical Women You Should Study

By the time the dust settles and the smoke clears, it is pretty well established that more often than not the women who had been right there alongside men on the battlefield, in the courtroom or wherever the case may be, inadvertently tend to be written of history...And it sucks. Not only does it make history class a drag but it subconsciously sends the message that women are only meant to be supporting actors or worse--not in the movie at all. That’s not to say that history books are completely devoid of influential women. However, it always feels as though women like Margaret Thatcher and Madame Curie are anomalies.

With that being said, I dedicate my first article of 2015 to five of the many, many powerful, intelligent, ruthless and influential women throughout history.

1. Frances Clalin Clayton

Women have been fighting in the military for far longer than we realize and Frances Clalin is a perfect example of this fact. Mother of three, Frances joined the army alongside her husband to fight in the Civil War, using the pseudonym of Jack Williams since women, of course, were not allowed into the army at the time. According to most reports, “Jack” was a model soldier and was able to fool her fellow soldiers for quite a while until a hip injury revealed her to be a woman. Nevertheless, the fact remains that Frances was a strong-minded chick. Not many women would be able to handle watching their husbands get killed just a few feet away from them and having to step over his bleeding corpse and advance on the captain’s orders to continue into battle--or so the story goes. Frances was merely one of many courageous women who fought right next to their male counterparts in the Civil War; many [women] were even buried as men.

2. Anne Bonny and Mary Read

Other than Keira Knightley’s character in Pirates of the Caribbean, "piracy" definitely feels like a male-dominated sphere. While it is definitely a man’s world (or was rather), it doesn't mean anything without a woman or a girl as we see in this case with Anne Bonny and Mary Read! Two of the most ferocious pirates the high seas ever did see [pun definitely intended], Anne Bonny and Mary Read were both born illegitimately and consequently started off life on a rough note as it is one thing to be a girl back in the 16th century, but another thing to be illegitimate, resulting in being masqueraded as men for much of their lives. The two women are known for their explosive tempers and fierce fighting skills; in fact, during their last battle off the coast of Jamaica, Anne and Mary singlehandedly fought off the Royal Navy while their male counterparts drunkenly ran below deck. This, of course, made Bonny and Read insanely mad, causing them to not only fend off the Navy but fight their own shipmates as well. They were eventually captured. But, never forget that these two women put up one hell of a fight.

3. Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker was a little bit of everything: diva, world traveller, civil rights activist, spy and supporter of banana skirts, just to name a few. "La Baker" as she was known throughout the world became one of the world’s most well-known performers and paved the way for many African-American entertainers, making herself the first black woman to star in a major motion picture. Baker is also famous for her unique take on combatting racism by adopting children of various ethnicities from around the world in an effort to demonstrate that race is nothing but a color; the children became affectionately known as her “Rainbow Tribe”. As if that was not enough, the "Creole Goddess" (another one of her monikers) served as a spy for France during World War II, using her popularity as an entertainer to travel throughout Europe while carrying secret messages on her sheet music using invisible ink! Oh, and she was also BFFs with Grace Kelly, in case we needed any further proof of her awesomeness.

4. Rani Lakshmibai

A legitimate warrior princess, or queen rather, Rani Lakshmibai is known for leading an army against the British East India Company, who attempted to remove her and her adopted son from the throne of the province in which she ruled. Married at the tender age of 12, Rani faced double trauma shortly after losing both her husband and son in quick succession. When the reigning British East India Company deemed both her and her adopted son unfit to rule and essentially dethroned her, Lakshmibai definitely did not take that lying down. Instead she strapped on her armor and led her people into a violent revolt where she basically massacred any Brit she could get her hands on. I am definitely not condoning violence in any form, but I feel like she was quite justified in this case- You don’t take a fight to a Queen and expect not to get burned!