As children, the majority of us had American history shoved down our throats and branded into our minds from pre-K all the way into senior year of high school. And you know what those lessons severely lacked? The figures of some monumental women who have either been overshadowed by men or *conveniently* forgotten. Now, however, we are a society going through massive changes brought on by a generation of individuals who believe equal rights are the only rights to live by; and thus, slowly but surely, influential women have been creeping their way back into the collective historical consciousness. In honor of not only Women’s History Month but also the individuals fighting for equal rights for women (and men, and genderfluid individuals, and everyone really) today, I bring to you a list of badass females who rocked the world.
1. Julie d’Aubigny
Meet the opera-singing, bisexual bad ass who managed to get pardoned not just once, but twice by King Louis XIV!
Julie d’Aubigny grew up with a father who taught King Louis’s pages how to fence, so needless to say Julie was using sharp and pointy weapons like a pro (enter penis joke here) by the time she was twelve. Her father also had the bad habit of running off any of Julie’s suitors with said deadly weaponry. Julie wasn’t impressed, but what’s a girl to do? Oh yeah, sleep with your dad’s boss because he can’t challenge him to a duel. The two, boss and dad, actually tried to marry Julie off in an attempt to calm her down. Her response? She took a sword wielder as a paramour and skipped town to wander around France.
She became widely known for her singing (opera was the Rock and Roll of 17th century France) and dueling capabilities. Some people refused to believe she was a gal because she a) never lost a duel and b) wore men’s clothing (which kind of became her thing). Whenever people lacked belief Julie would whip off her shirt and convince them pretty quickly. (anybody thinking about that iconic scene in She’s The Man?!)
Let’s not forget she also burned down a convent and escaped with her female paramour, whose father forced her into nunnery in an attempt to separate her from Julie. Julie and her lover proceeded to hook up in an alley near the inferno. This got her a death sentence, but Louis let her off with a slap on the wrist.
Side note: This all happened before Julie turned twenty. Impressed yet?
Julie proceeded to join the opera, best men at dueling, and seduced a woman at a ball which turned into Julie dueling three of the woman’s suitors (who she may or may not have killed). King Louis was apparently amused to high heavens by the fiasco and ONCE AGAIN pardoned her.
Julie ran around a bit more before returning to her home in Paris and dying about six years later (age 37). Those six years were comprised of her calming down and simply living with her husband. Yeah. She was married during all of this.
Julie d’Aubigny was a woman who gave absolutely no fucks about traditional gender roles, and we love her for it.
So you have probably heard of Egyptian Queens Cleopatra and Nefertiti, but have you heard of the Egyptian Pharaoh Hatshepsut? And yes, I said Pharaoh. This badass ruler was quite aware that being a Pharaoh carried more weight than being a Queen did, so she stuck on a beard and had people refer to her as such, becoming the third to do so and the first to attain all the power that comes with such a title.
Talking about being a pharaoh, Hatshepsut demanded that she be painted and sculpted as a male because she needed people to recognize her as a legitimate ruler (a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do to subvert the patriarchy, right?). Her father had appointed her as his successor but she only came into power when her husband/brother (yeah, I know) died and his son (born to his second wife) was too young to assume the title. Oh, she also wanted to be painted not only with the beard, but with large muscles as well. The girl knew what the people wanted, amiright?
Oh, and to top it all off, this badass married a woman and took a male lover. Why? The marrying a woman made her appear more masculine back in the day while having a male lover fixed the whole “heir” problem (even though she never ended up having an heir necessarily).
Of course this pharaoh also made Egypt much better than what it had been. She took on building projects that people scoffed at, and one of them, an enormous memorial temple at Deir el-Bahri, ended up becoming one of the architectural wonders of the world. She also brought in an enormous amount of trade and one expedition that met her approval brought ivory, gold, incense, and other treasures to Egypt.
She was buried in the Valley of Kings beside her father. Her stepson took over and had all images of her portrayed as a male destroyed (psh, overcompensating much). But we know who she is and just how amazing she was, so sorry Thutmose III, you still come nowhere near being as amazing as Hatshepsut.
Female. Samurai. Warriors. Need I say more? These ladies took to the battlefields as part of a samurai class and gave absolutely zero fucks about what anybody thought. They mainly used naginatas because of their versatility in defending and countering a variety of other weapons as well as used kaiken (a type of dagger) and tantojutsu.
4. Fatima al-Fihri
EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW THIS WOMAN! And if you don’t, congratulations, I am here to educate you. You’re welcome.
Guess who founded the first degree-granting university? If you guessed anyone but Fatima al-Fihri than I don’t know what to say. This bonafide badass immigrated to Morocco with her family. After losing her father, husband, and brothers all in succession (ouch), Fatima and her sister gained a rather large inheritance (no foul play, I promise) they were both also educated, which is pretty amazing considering the times.
What to do with all that money though. Whereas most people would have spent it on useless fancies, Fatima and her sister decided that they wanted to help their communities. So they both decided to build mosques since the local ones were way too small. Fatima’s mosque, Al Qarawiyyin, was architecturally breathtaking (like woah) and eventually it became a university in the 10th to 12th century.
The University still exists today (talk about historical foundations) and goes by University of Qarawiyyin. However now only males are allowed to attend the university. Yeah. Fatima is probably face palming so hard in the afterlife.
5. Jacquotte Delahaye
(I couldn’t find a picture of this amazing pirate because she is just that good.)
Want to know why I dye my hair obnoxiously red? Jacquotte Delahaye, that’s why. 17th century misogynistic ideology had no affect other than to make this woman say, “Oh, you say I can’t do that? Watch me.”
This pirate stole an untold amount of fortunes without ever getting caught. Why resort to piracy? She lost her mother in childbirth, her father murdered, and her brother was mentally handicapped. Jacquotte wasn’t about to let her brother fend for himself so she decided to become a pirate to take care of him. And she did just that.
She reportedly once faked her own death when the government was closing in on her. Then when the heat died down several years later she took to the seas without skipping a beat. This earned her the nickname Back from the Dead Red and a reputation of giving zero fucks.
6. The Trung Sisters
Trung Trac and Trung Nh, daughters of a Vietnamese nobleman, lived in a time when Han China sought to gain complete control over Northern Vietnam. Considering that the two cultures had different traditions, things were definitely tense. One tradition the two clashed on was the place of women within a society. While the Chinese practiced a strict hierarchical and patriarchal system, the Vietnamese believed women were equal to their male counterparts.
So where do the Trung sisters come into play? When Trac’s husband was executed for protesting taxes his widow was not pleased. The only logical solution was to raise an army, with the help of her sister of course, of 80,000 people, the majority of which were female, and chase the Chinese out of Vietnam. Nice.
Fun Fact: The sisters also rode elephants into battle in front of their troops. Yeah. That happened.
7. Parisa Tabriz
Meet the amazing woman who will go down in history (or should) and has ‘Security Princess’ on her business card because she thought her official title was too boring. Oh, and she was paid by her employers, Google, to hack into them in order to teach developers how to secure products. Can we say boss?
Actually, we can say boss, because Parisa is definitely everything that makes one up. Not only is she an amazingly talented hacker at under 30 years of age, this woman is also one of very few females in the business and she completely dominates it by being the literal boss/manager of a mostly male team consisting of thirty experts in the field.
To top it all off, Parisa mentors girls under the age of 16 in an attempt to not only show that women can do hacking just as well as men, but that hacking can also be used for good. After all, Parisa herself uses hacking as a way of protecting people by exposing security faults in products so that developers can fix them.
She was also named on of Forbes’s “Top 30 Under 30 to Watch.” No biggie.