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46 Fascinating Warrior Women in History

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.

1. Boudicca – Slayed life approximately from 60 in Norfolk and Suffolk, England

She was the Queen of the Iceni tribe and when her husband died, he left his kingdom to his daughters. The Romans ignored this will and decided to take over anyway. Rallied the Iceni and Trinovantes and decimated Colchester, London, and St. Albans. Somehow, the Romans won the final battle so she poisoned herself and her daughters so they would not be captured and humiliated.


2. Trie Thi Trinh – Slayed life from 225-248 in Jiaozhou, Vietnam

Apparently, she was nine feet tall and had three-foot-long breasts. She killed her sister for being a snitch to the encroaching Chinese while her brother tried to make her see reason. She convinced him to be her assistant and managed to hold back Chinese for about six months. Eventually, the troops got exhausted and were defeated. She fled to commune in Phu Dien and killed herself.


3. Tomoe Gozen- Slayed life from 1157-1247 in eastern Japan

She married a really powerful weaponry man, and he decided to become emperor of Japan. She led his armies and beheaded at least eight opposing generals. But when her husband was defeated, he told her to seek safety so he could die with his foster brother and was ashamed to die with a woman. We don’t really know what happened to her; maybe she become a Buddhist nun, maybe she became a sex slave, maybe she drowned herself.


4. Grainne Ni Mhaille – Slayed life from 1530-1603 in Rockfleet Castle, Ireland

Her family was very well-off with a lot of castles on the coast. She married one man, he died, so she took a lover and he died, and finally, married another dude, but he also died. She took revenge on all her lover’s killers and on the English lords trying to take over Ireland from the natives. One English lord captured some of her male relatives. Queen Elizabeth wondered why she was rebellious and invited her to London, and they worked out a deal. But the English lords didn’t listen, so she fought against them until she died peacefully.


5. Hatshepsut – Slayed life from 1507-1458 BCE in Memphis, Egypt

She was the king and general of Egypt. Her brother and husband died and she became the regent for her stepson before declaring herself the rightful pharaoh of both Lower and Upper Egypt. She built wonderful statues and the first tomb in the Valley of the Kings. She took control back from the Hyksos and decimated them. She died from diabetes, bone cancer, arthritis, and bad dental health. The two following rulers tried to pretend she didn’t exist and destroyed her statues.


6. Yennenga – Slayed life in the 1100s around Ougadougou, Burkina Faso

She was a pretty fantastic warrior, starting at 14. Since she was so advanced, her dad would not let her marry. She rebelled as a teenager by killing the kingdom’s corn. Her dad imprisoned her, but she escaped to a forest where she found a huntsmen and they got married and had kids. She went back to terrorize her dad and take over his kingdom, which she and her family ruled until the dynasty died out.


7. Maria Quiteria – Slayed life from 1792-1853 in Bahia, Brazil

Against her family’s wishes, she signed up for the Brazilian army, dressed as a man and was an amazing soldier. Her dad got super mad when he found out, and he outed her as a woman. But the army allowed her to stay because she was such a good fighter. She won medals from the emperor. After the army, she got married, had kids, and died peacefully.


8. Lakshmibai – Slayed life from 1828-1858 in Jhansi, India

Her husband died, and she refused to just be regent, so she took power. A coup was attempted, but she defeated it. However, it resulted in a huge massacre and the British blamed her for it. She defended her land for years before the British sent help to her. By this time, she didn’t want their help and fought the British. She was killed in battle and cremated by her people.


9. Sarah Pritchard – Slayed life from 1839-1903 in North Carolina, United States of America

Her husband was drafted into the Confederate army, so she disguised herself as a man and followed him. She fought very well but was injured and people discovered her disguise. They made her leave the army, so she and her husband got mad and switched over to the Union side. Her and her husband ran an Underground Railroad station and seriously decimated any Confederate units that crossed them. She died on a farm with four kids and her husband.


10. CiXi – Slayed life from 1835-1908 in Beijing, China

She became a concubine for the emperor. She gave birth to his only son and heir. When the emperor died, she shared empress dowager power with his primary wife. She planned coup to give her full power over the government. Her son died and she chose her nephew for the throne. She “let him rule” when he came of age but killed his wife because she thought that she was a distraction and locked him in a tower. When she knew she was going to die, she poisoned the emperor so he would not reform China and appointed the next conservative heir.


11. Caterina Sforza – Slayed life from 1463-1509 in Milan and Florence, Italy

She entered into a forced marriage to a duke when she was ten years old. When her ally the pope died, rebellions started and she crossed the Tiber on horseback while seven months pregnant and commanded the defense of the city. Her husband died, and people tried to take her land, but she outsmarted them. Milan and Naples were fighting, but she kept her cool. She avenged all of her husband’s deaths personally. She resisted the pope when he tried to take her lands and led a charge against them. She died in Florence after years of exile.


12. Amanirenas – Slayed life from 60-10 BCE in Napata, Kush

She was the ruling queen of Kush. The prefect of Egypt went on campaign somewhere else, so she and her people decided to launch an attack and take it. They destroyed two Roman cities. She had people make a bronze head of Augustus only to destroy it for show. The Romans exiled the Jews from her country. She held fort for two years until the Romans almost destroyed her entire country. She negotiated a treaty that was favorable to her people and died peacefully.


13. Moving Robe Woman – Slayed life from 1854-1881 in Standing Rock, South Dakota

She began to take part in raids when she was seventeen. Her brother was killed in one of General Custer’s raids. She snuck into her father’s unit on Little Big Horn and stabbed Custer in the back, therefore killing him. Also maybe killed an interpreter for the American army. We don’t know much about her after that.


14. Juana Azurduy de Padilla – Slayed life from 1780-1862 in Chuquisaca, Bolivia

She was forced into a convent at 12 by her rich father. Then, she was expelled at 17 because she was a rebellious nun. She joined another rebellious army, and the government did not like that. They took their lands and kidnapped their kids, but she saved them. She lead two personal cavalry movements while pregnant. Her husband was killed trying to save her and she lead another attack to get his body from the government. She had her kid and went back to fighting. The government did not give her money or her land back, and she died in poverty.


15. Khutulun – Slayed life from 1260-1306 in Khanbaliq, Mongolia

Her father ruled most of Central Asia and was the cousin of Kublai Khan. She led his armies and personally faced Kublai Khan. She also was her father’s main political advisor. She said any man who wanted to marry her had to defeat her in a wrestling match. Nobody really knows who her husband ended up being. Her father tried to give her the khanate but her male relatives prevented this. She guarded her father’s tomb day and night after he died. She died in battle with her brother and cousin for the khanate.


16. Saint Olga – Slayed life until 969 in Kiev, Ukraine

When her husband died, she became regent for her son. She led many campaigns against rebellious tribes. She did not marry again and killed people who tried to get her to. She started legal reforms in Eastern Europe and revolutionized fort building. She was the first ruler of Rus to convert to Christianity. She brought bishops to Rus and expelled pagan groups. She ran the government while her son went on campaigns.


17. Amina Sukhera – Slayed life until 1610 in Zaria, Nigeria

She knew how to hold a dagger at four before she was taught. She refused to marry in order to keep power. Her mother died and passed the kingdom down to her. She was first to establish central government in Africa. She conquered many surrounding lands and demanded they pay tribute. She increased trade networks in Africa and began cultivating kola nuts which gave people a new protein. She reigned for over thirty years, but we don’t know how she died.


18. Policarpa Saliverrieta – Slayed life from 1795-1817 in Bogota, Colombia

Also known as La Pola. Her mother, father, sister, and brother died from smallpox and her two brothers joined the Augustinian order. She went with her older sister wherever she moved. The viceroy’s wife predicted her destiny and death. She fought with her two brothers in the revolution against Spanish Royalists and became a spy and recruited young men to the cause. She was captured and put on trial with others for treason. When brought to the firing squad, she refused to kneel and faced her executors.


19. The Mirabal Sisters – Slayed life from the 1920s-1960s in Salcedo, Dominican Republic

Except for Dede, who did not fight and died peacefully in 2014. They went to Catholic boarding school, university, and got married. Patria witnessed a massacre by the president’s men. They formed group called the Movement of the Fourteenth of June. They referred to themselves as Las Mariposas. Minerva and Maria Theresa were incarcerated but freed by the Organization of American States, who condemned the president. All three were killed by the president’s men while on their way to visit their husbands in prison.


20. Cathay Williams – Slayed life from 1844-1893 in Independence, Missouri

She was born as a slave in Missouri. Union forces made her serve in a military support role until she enlisted in the U.S. Army under the name William Cathay. She contracted smallpox and was hospitalized on and off for many years. The post-surgeon figured out she was a woman and she was dishonorably discharged from the Army. Her husband stole from her and she became a cook. A journalist wrote about her story in the Army. She suffered from neuralgia, diabetes, and amputations but was denied disability and died shortly after being rejected a pension.


21. Marie Madeleine Jarret de Vercheres – Slayed life from 1678-1747 in Vercheres, Canada

Her region suffered many Iroquois attacks. The Iroquois killed her brother and two of her brother-in-laws and was almost captured by the Iroquois but called her neighbors to help. She held down the fort with the soldiers, and it all happened when she was fourteen. Her father’s pension was given to her because of her heroism. She married and had kids. She had to sail to France three times to negotiate her land deals and died peacefully.


22. Lady Agnes Randolph – Slayed life from 1312-1369 in Berwickshire, Scotland

Also known as Black Agnes because of her dark hair and eyes. When her husband was gone, the English raided her castle. She threw a boulder down at the battering ram English threatened to hang her brother if she didn’t stop. She allowed it because she would get money. The English tried to attack from the sea and she led the charge that defeated them once and for all. She died peacefully in her castle.


23. Gwenllian ferch Gruffyyd – Slayed life from 1100-1136 in Aberffaw, Wales

She eloped with her husband. The Normans were attacking the family territory, so she and her husband led lightning raids against them. Her husband went to join her father in a Welsh military planning council with Normans still raiding the territory. She raised an army to defend her castle and was beheaded along with two of her sons. With her death, many Welsh became inspired and her brothers took back land from the Normans in her name.


24. Jeanne Laisne – Slayed life starting in 1456 in Beauvais, France

Also known as Jeanne Hachette. She was born into a peasant family. The Burgundians were sieging her town, and the garrison was only defended by 300 men. One Burgundian soldier placed a flag on the garrison before the battle ended ,so she got mad and threw the flag and the soldier into the moat. This inspired the remaining men to win the battle. The king allowed her to marry her chosen lover, against her father’s will.


25. Brunhilda – Slayed life from 543-613 in Toledo, Austrasia

When she got married, her husband’s brother married her sister. His brother and his mistress murdered her sister and got married. They persuaded their husbands to go to war, and she got to rule Paris. Assassins killed her husband, and she was imprisoned. Her nephew tried to make her marry him, but his dad sent him to a monastery. She became regent for her son and then grandsons. She killed many courtesans to stay in power and installed her lover in the mayor of the palace position. While she was regent for her great-grandson she was chased out of the city and killed for her encompassing power.


26. Ana de Souza Nzingha Mbande – Slayed life from 1583-1663 in Luanda, Angola

A wise woman told her mother that she would be queen. Her father was deposed, she was exiled, and her bastard brother took power. Her brother revolted against the Portuguese and was defeated. They set up the slave trade in their country as tribute. Her brother called for her to negotiate an equal treaty and she converted to Catholicism to please the Portuguese. She was regent for her nephew then she killed him and became queen. She was defeated by the Portuguese and her sister, the puppet queen, became a spy for her. She resisted the Portuguese for decades more with Dutch help but eventually signed another peace treaty with the Portuguese. She used diplomacy to oppose them until she died peacefully.


27. La Adelita – Slayed life in the early 1900s in Durango, Mexico

She joined the Mexican Revolution early in the movement and was supposedly a mistress of one of the leaders of the revolution. She was a figurehead for the women’s side of the revolution. There are many women who could be her; there are many legends with not many documented sources from the time. She inspired a popular folk song about the Mexican Revolution. Women who fight for their rights in Mexico are now known as adelitas.


28. Lagertha – Slayed life in the 1100s in Norway

Her father was the king of Norway. The king of Sweden invaded and killed her father. He forced the women to become prostitutes, but Lagertha came to rescue them with an army and snuck them out in men’s clothes. They all fought together to escape. He tried to marry her, but she kept two bears at her house to keep suitors away. He killed them, and she thought he was a great warrior. They got married, but he divorced her to marry another princess. She saved his army with hers when he needed her help. She killed her second husband because he was mad at her for this and ruled on her own until her death.


29. Khalwah bint al-Azwar – Slayed life in the 600s in the Arabian Peninsula

She and her family were some of the first converts to Islam. Her brother was wounded in battle so she snuck in and took his place. Then, he was taken prisoner and she took control of the regiment while the other leader was wounded. He came back and allowed her to fight since she was so good. She lead the regiment and rescued her brother. In one battle, she fell off her horse and was taken to a prostitution camp. She rallied the other women and they escaped while killing 30 guards.


30. Malailai of Maiwand – Slayed life from 1861-1880 in Khig, Afghanistan

The British were on their second attempt of colonization. Her father and fiance joined the rebelling forces. The British attacked a nearby town on her wedding day, and her husband fought while she provided healthcare. When the rebel forces were failing, she began fighting and roused them to a second wind of battle. She was killed while bearing the Afghan flag. The rebels won and brought her body to her hometown.


31. Dihya – Slayed life in the 600s in Algeria

She was said to have the longest hair of any woman. Many people thought she was a witch. She agreed to marry the tyrant of her people, and then she killed him on their wedding night. She ruled the state democratically and defeated the greatest Arab general when he tried to invade. He hid from her for five years then came back to defeat her once and for all. She died in this battle, sword in hand.


32. Keumalahayati – Slayed life in the 1500s in Sumatra, Indonesia

She graduated from the Islamic military school in her region and fought against the Portuguese and the Dutch. She was widowed during these battles. The Sultan promoted her to admiral, and she recruited from other widows of Indonesia. She personally killed the Dutch advisor who was rude to the Sultan and negotiated with the Dutch traders on his behalf. She was the Sultan’s primary advisor to the English and was able to peacefully bring them into Indonesia’s trading system. She was killed in combat while fighting the Portuguese.


33. Emilia Plater – Slayed life from 1806-1831 in Poland

Her father and mother divorced when she was young, so she was raised by her relatives who educated her. She loved to ride horses and practice shooting. She was part of a secret, pro-Polish student organization. When her cousin was forcibly conscripted by Russia, she began an anti-Tsarist soapbox tour. She joined the rebels in the November Uprising and was advised to surrender when the rebels were losing but refused. She ended up catching a disease and died in her family mansion.


34. Deborah – Slayed life in the 1100s BCE in Mount Ephraim, Israel

She was a prophet and a judge of the Israelites. She married a lord of one of the twelve tribes and prophesied that a son of Israel would defeat the tyrant king of Canaan. She called him to lead an army, but he would not go without her. She would only go if the victory was attributed to her. He defeated the army and captured the king, and she killed the king. This brought peace to the land for forty years. She sang a victory song that was immortalized in the Bible and died peacefully at the end of this peace.


35. Gudit – Slayed life in the 900s in Ethiopia

She was married to one king, but he was killed. She wanted to become queen again so she destroyed the countryside to gain the royals’ attention. She specifically destroyed the royal treasury and prison. She terrorized the royal family for years until she finally was able to kill the emperor. She took the throne for herself and ruled peacefully for forty years. Then, she was killed by people rebelling against her.


36. Gabriela Silang – Slayed life from 1731-1763 in Ilocos Sur, Philippines

She was raised by a priest after her parents died. He arranged a marriage for her, but her husband died three years later. She met a Filipino nationalist, and they got married. The British declared war on Spain and invaded. Her husband collaborated with the British to drive out the Spanish, but they backed out and Gabriela became his advisor and fought with him. Two of his former allies killed him and she escaped to her uncle’s. She assumed her husband’s role in the rebellion and tried to retaliate against the Spanish but was defeated. She had to go into hiding until she was captured and she and her army were publicly executed.


37. Shote Galicia – Slayed life from 1895-1927 in Albania

She grew up with six older brothers. She was married to an insurgent and fought with him in all the battles he participated in. After he was killed, she took over his post and captured and killed prominent Serb military leaders. She lost twenty-two family members in this conflict. She mysteriously withdrew and spent her last months in hiding. No one knows exactly how she died.


38. Gordafarid – Slayed life around 1000 BCE in Iran

She was featured in The Epic of Kings. She was the commander of one of the Iranian armies Turanian troops were invading their territory. She rallied troops to fight them and fought the man in charge of the Turanian army. She defeated him and became famous for this. Almost nothing else is known about her. She became a symbol of courage and wisdom for Iranian women.


39. Yaa Asantewaa – Slayed life from 1840-1921 in Ghana

Her brother was the chief of their empire, and when he died, she appointed her grandson. The British exiled him to the Seychelles. She gathered a council to plot to bring him back. The council appointed her the war leader. The rebellion fought the British for two years. During battle, she and her advisors were captured and exiled. She died in exile before her country became free.


40. Suriyothai – Slayed life from 1511-1548 in Siam

She married the Prince Regent who then became king. The King of Burma invaded their territory. She advised her husband to desert the outer towns and lure them to the capital where they were prepared to fight. She and her daughter dressed in military gear and joined their male relatives. They rode war elephants. Her husband engaged in single combat with the King of Burma. His war elephant fled, so she began fighting single combat. The King of Burma killed her and her daughter. Her sons avenged them and carried their bodies back to the palace.


41. Atalanta – Slayed life in 3000 BCE in Greece

She was a princess, but her father wanted a son so he abandoned her. Farmers found her, and she was raised by them. She went on a boar hunt with her lover, but his uncles didn’t like her. She drew first blood, so he gave the hide to her and they tried to kill her. He killed his uncles in revenge. She joined the Jason and the Argonauts on their trip. When she reunited with her father, he wanted her married. She did not, so she said she would marry anyone who could outrun her. No one could until one guy prayed to Aphrodite for help. She became distracted, and they were married. She died peacefully after having seven children.


42. Semiramis – Slayed life in the 800s BCE in Assyria

She was said to have been the daughter of the Fish Goddess. She was married to the ruler of the empire and advised him in all of his battles. When he was killed in battle, she masqueraded as their son and took control. She became regent for their son. Some say they had an incestuous relationship. She added many lands to the Assyrian empire and ended the civil war. She built a monument to herself. She is sometimes associated with the Whore of Babylon. She died after her son had reached majority and become emperor.


43. Efunroye Tinubu – Slayed life from 1810-1887 in Lagos

She married the exiled king. She built a lucrative business with her second husband. Her husband died, and her stepson became king. She remarried the general and helped him with strategy. Her stepson died, and her brother-in-law became king. He was exiled, and she fought for him to return; he did. She went against the law and traded slaves anyway. She created an extensive praetorian guard of slaves. She fought against the invading British and was banished. She traded weapons and officially became chief of another tribe until she died in exile.


44. Kenau Simondochter Hasselaer – Slayed life from 1526-1588 in the Netherlands

Her town was invaded by the Spanish. Everyone helped rebuild, but she was mentioned by name. She was said to have led the townspeople in throwing tar at them. She also led many women to join the men in fighting. When her husband died, she took control of his business. She became an extensive grain and wood shipper. She gained many civil positions in shipping. Her captain was captured by pirates and she left to find him. She was lost at sea because of this.


45. Septimia Zenobia – Slayed life from 240-274 in Syria

She married the ruler of Palmyra who then became king. Her husband was assassinated and she became regent for her son. She took power from her son when he came of age. She protected religious minorities and launched an invasion that annexed Egypt. She also annexed Anatolia and Ankara and declared independence from the Roman empire. She was captured and exiled to Rome, where she died while in exile.


46. Catalina de Erauso- Slayed life from 1592-1650 in Spain

Also known as La Monja Alfarez. She was put in a convent with her sisters when she was four. She was transferred when she was fifteen for disobedience. She refused to take her vows and ran away as a man. She became a page for the king until her father came looking. She bounced from place to place until going back to her hometown as a man. She went to America and also bounced from place to place. She fought against the natives and was very ruthless. She killed many people she didn’t need to. She confessed she was a woman to save herself from the death penalty and died a cattle merchant in New Spain.

Emma McGilvray is a freshman here at SLU. She is a Medieval Studies major, with minors in Creative Writing and Women's and Gender Studies. She loves studying women in literature and history. She is from Tulsa, Oklahoma and loves breakfast food.
Sarah is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Campus Correspondent for Her Campus at Saint Louis University. She is a Junior studying English and American Studies with a primary interest in 20th-Century and Contemporary American Literature, particularly semi-autobiographical fiction and novels that celebrate diversity within the fabric of American society and culture. Sarah is originally from Minneapolis, MN (and will talk your ear off about it) and loves all things literature, intersectional feminisim, travel, food, and politics. Ask her for recommendations for exciting new novels or local restaurants, and she will gladly oblige!