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A History of Fighting Women

By Nicky Saunders

How many times have you heard the old argument - "it's not natural for women to want to fight"? people talk as if it's only in the last fifty years or so that women have taken part in combat activities, but nothing could be further from the truth. i've spent the last seven years researching the history of fighting women. it's a project i expected to take about six months - i'd heard of boudicca, joan of arc and the japanese naginata schools, and thought that if i was lucky i might find another fifty or so examples. instead, i've found hundreds of thousands of examples already and more keep turning up all the time as people contribute to the project.

The earliest reference i've found dates from 3500bc, when an Indian queen, called Vishpla, led her troops into battle.

The mythical Amazons turn out to be based on several actual historical tribes in the near east including the scythians, sauromatians and sarmatians. and the amazon river got its name because early explorers saw native women leading warbands and taking part in attacks.

The romans describe Celtic, Gaullish and Gothic women who fought alongside the men of their tribes, and the viking sagas describe many women trained in the use of swords, spears and other weapons.

Medieval chroniclers complain that noble ladies are surrendering their dignity by appearing in tournaments, and eighteenth centry news-sheets discuss the women who participated in bonnie Prince Charlie's battles with his cousin King George i over the throne of Britain.

Mrs Emily Pankhurst had a bodyguard of suffragettes trained in Jujitsu, and in the first and second world wars women were pilots, spies, guerrilla fighters and frontline troops in many countries. The Russian army had special groups of female snipers, because they were felt to be better at the job than men.

All in all there's a rich history of fighting women to look back on and draw inspiration from.

You can find my research (currently about 20 pages) starting from http://www.lothene.org/others/women.html and if you have any more examples to contribute please let me know.

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