Well here is the second part of our look at some of history’s most BADASS WARRIOR WOMEN! We can’t tell you how much fun we’ve had reading about all these amazing and inspiring ladies.
Hopefully you’ll enjoy reading about them all!
Rani Lakshmi Bai
Manikarnika was born to a noble family in Jhansi, India in 1828. She grew up to lead a resistance against the British Raj that instilled a sense of hope and admiration that has lasted through to this day.
Her mother died when she was only 4 and her father worked in the court of the Peshwa of Bithoor, a Prime Minister type position. The Peshwa took a shine to her and she was encouraged to learn how to shoot, fence and ride horses along with the other boys in the court.
In 1842 Manikarnika was married to the King of Jhansi, who was a widower and 25 years her senior. Her name was changed to Lakshmi Bai and she was now royalty, ruling over Jhansi with her husband, though she didn’t act like other royal wives, continuing to shoot, fence and ride as well as any other pursuit that took her fancy.
At the time of British Imperial rule over India, the British only recognised Kingdoms with legitimate heirs. Manikarnika did bear a son, but he died a few months after his birth, they decided to adopt an heir and hope this kept their kingdom under their rule.
The king passed away in 1853 and the British Empire took this as their shot and pushed to take over Jhansi as they saw no legitimate heir. They offered her an annual pension and told her to get the fuck out of dodge.
Manikarnika was not having this, and in 1857 to 1859 she rallied her armies and fought a bloody rebellion to keep the British out of her lands. She dressed as a man and made a fearsome sight on the battlefield, riding with a sword in each hand.
However eventually the British broke through her ranks at the fort of Gwalinor so Manikarnika had to flee with her adopted son. She strapped him to her back and fought her way through the battle on horseback with a sword in each hand, holding the reins in her mouth!
She got away to safety but was mortally wounded. She was said to have been found by a hermit, and she handed her son to him and asked that he burn her body so the British couldn’t defile it.
Lozen and her brother Victorio were part of the Chihenne Chiricahua Apache tribe. Victorio was the chief and Lozen was his personal warrior and a prophet.
Her tribe was forced to relocate to the harsh San Carlos Reservation, it was known as Hell’s 40 Acres… probably not a nice place.
The conditions were deplorable, so the tribe left the reservation in 1877 and they began raiding the lands that had once been there’s while avoiding military capture.
Victorio said of his sister
“Lozen is my right hand… Strong as a man, braver than most, and cunning in strategy. Lozen is a shield to her people.’
Lozen was also kind at heart. She led women and children from her tribe to safety across the Rio Grande, encouraging the terrified group to cross the river by going in first. An account from that time from James Kaywaykla (one of the children) paints an amazing picture
“I saw a magnificent woman on a beautiful horse—Lozen, sister of Victorio. Lozen the woman warrior! High above her head she held her rifle. There was a glitter as her right foot lifted and struck the shoulder of her horse. He reared, then plunged into the torrent. She turned his head upstream, and he began swimming”
Her beloved brother was killed in 1881, during a battle she was not present at (she was safely accompanying a mother and new born back to her tribe) and Lozen immediately rode to the survivors’ aid.
Lozen and the survivors took a bloody revenge and teamed up with Geronimo as they fought against the American Military who were taking over their homes. She was eventually captured, and she died while a prisoner of war. Her body was released to her tribe, so she could be buried with honour.
Nakano was an Onna-bugeisha, a female Samurai. That’s badass.
She was born in Edo, Japan in 1847, and was the daughter of an Aizu official. Her Dad was off on official business a lot, so Nakano was adopted by martial arts trainer Akaoa Daisuke and he trained her up trained up in various forms of martial arts and weapons combat. She was also educated to a very high standard and was just an all-round excellent pupil.
She ran a martial arts school with Akaoa for a while, which is just an amazing achievement in itself, but Nakano went to her father in Aizu in 1856. Our girl was destined to fight in the Boshin Civil War that raged on in Aizu from 1886 to 1889.
The Imperial Japanese Army of the Ogaki domain mounted a campaign to take over the lands there and a resistance in Aizu was forming. Nakano trained up 20 women in the art of combat and weaponry. She trained her own all female killer army!!!
They fought alongside the all-male Aizu Army, though they weren’t officially recognised. Nakano’s weapon of choice was a naginata, which is a long pole, with a curved blade at the end.
During a high point of one battle Nakano led a charge against the Imperial Japanese Army. She was fatally shot in the chest. She didn’t want the opposition defiling her remains or using her as a scapegoat so she persuaded one of her army to decapitate her and bury her head where her enemies wouldn’t find it.
She was buried under a pine tree at the Hokai Temple (modern day Fukushima) and a monument to her was erected beside her grave. She’s still celebrated now! For the Aizu Autumn Festival women take part in the procession, wearing traditional hakama and headbands to commemorate Nakano and her women army.
Sara Westrop is passionate about making history accessible (and fun!) for everyone. A disabled, queer writer from just outside London, who loves writing about the unsung chapters of history.