Women in early modern warfare

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Active warfare throughout history has mainly been a matter for men, but women have also played a role, often a leading one. While women rulers conducting warfare was common, women who participated in active warfare was rare. The following list of prominent women in war and their exploits from about 1500 AD up to about 1750 AD suggests the wider involvement of numerous unnamed women, some of them thrust into positions of leadership by virtue of birth or family connection, others from humble origin by virtue of martial skill, force of personality and circumstance.

Only women active in direct warfare, such as warriors, spies, and women who actively led armies are included in this list.

Timeline of women in warfare in the early modern era worldwide[edit]

Mai Bhago (top right) in the battle of Muktsar December 1705

16th century[edit]

17th century[edit]

  • 17th century: Belawadi Mallamma is the first woman to form a women's army to fight against the British and the Marathas[14] in 17th century.[15][dead link]
  • 17th century: Sikh woman Bibi Dalair Kaur fights the Mughals by rallying 100 Sikh women against them. She is killed, and Sikhs consider her to be a martyr.
  • 17th century: Queen Keladi Chennamma of the Keladi kingdom of India fights the Mughals.
  • 17th century: Respective reigns of Jaga warrior queens Mussasa and Tembandumba.
  • 17th century to 1894: Dahomey Amazons act as an all female regiment (under female command) of the west African Kingdom of Dahomey.
  • 17th century: Several soldiers are reportedly discovered to be female in the French army during the reign of Louis XIV of France.
  • 17th century: Shen Yunying leads her own army in China.[16]
  • 17th century: Gao Guiying leads her army as a general in China.[17]
  • 17th century: Qin Liangyu commands armies in China.[18]
  • 17th century: Antónia Rodrigues serves as man in the Portuguese army and is decorated for bravery in the war against the moors.
  • 17th century: A woman serve in the Dutch dragoons sometime between 1642 and 1710: she is found dead after a private duel, and her unnamed skeleton is donated to the University of Rotterdam (founded in 1642), where it is first documented in 1710 as "Aal de Dragonder"[19]
  • 17th century: Akiko Yamamoto serve as one of few female samurais of her period.
  • 1600: Inahime, a Japanese princess, participates in the Battle of Sekigahara.
  • 1604-1611: Margaretha, a woman from Frisia, serve in the Dutch army dressed as a man for seven years before discovery in 1611[20]
  • 1612: Swedish Emerentia Krakow defends the Fortress of Gullberg against the Danes in the place of her wounded spouse, the commendant of the fortress.[21]
  • 1612: According to legend, Prillar-Guri participates in the Battle of Kringen.
  • 1620: Legendary Albanian heroine Nora of Kelmendi.
  • September 13, 1624: Ketevan the Martyr, a Georgian queen, is tortured to death after offering herself as a hostage to Shah Abbas I to prevent war.
  • 1625: Trintje Symons serve in the Dutch army dressed as a man [22]
  • 1625-1629: Anne Jans serve as sailor in the Dutch navy [23]
  • 1628: Glasmästare-Kerstin is hanged after it is discovered that she enlisted as a soldier in the Swedish army[24]
  • 1628-1629: Maritgen Jans serve in the Dutch navy dressed as a man under the name David van Gorkum [25]
  • 1628-1632: Barbara Pieters Adriaens serve in the Dutch army dressed as a man under the name Wilhelm Adriaens [26]
  • June 5, 1639: Lady Ann Cunningham leads a mixed-sex cavalry troop in the Battle of Berwick.
  • 1641: Elizabeth Dowdall successfully defends Kilfinny Castle during the Irish Rebellion.
  • 1643: Lady Mary Bankes defends Corfe Castle from a siege in the English Civil War.
  • 1643: Lady Brilliana Harley defends Brampton Castle during the English Civil War.
  • 1643: Henrietta Maria of France returns to England from France, landing in Yorkshire and joining Royalist troops in the English Civil War.
  • 1643: Lady Blanche Arundell defends Wardour Castle during the English Civil War.
  • 1643: An unnamed woman uses the name Claus Bernsen to enlist in the Dutch navy [27]
  • 1644: Charlotte Stanley, Countess of Derby defends Latham House from Parliamentarian Forces.
  • 1645: Françoise-Marie Jacquelin defence the Fort la Tour during the Acadian Civil War.
  • 1640s-1650s: Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba fights the Portuguese.
  • 1652: Anne Marie Louise d'Orléans, Duchess of Montpensier, fires the cannons against the army of Turenne during the Fronde.
  • 1652-1653: Anna Jans serve in the Dutch Navy as a man during the war against England [28]
  • 1652-1653: Johanna Pieters serve in the Dutch Navy as a man during the war against England [29]
  • 1652-1653: Adriana La Noy serve as sailor dressed as a man in the Dutch Navy [30]
  • 1653: The Princess of Moldavia, Doamna Ecaterina Cercheza, defends the city of Suceava toward the Ottoman siege.
  • 1659: Anne Holck leads the defense of the Danish island of Langeland after the death of her spouse against the Swedes during the Dano-Swedish War (1658–1660).
  • 1659-1665: Willemtge Gerrits serve in the Dutch Marine as a man [31]
  • 1665: Jacoba Jacobs serve in the Dutch Marine as Jacob Jacobs [32]
  • 1670: Alyona, a Russian female ataman rebel, commanded a detachment of about 600 men and participated in the capture of Temnikov.
  • 1675–1676: King Philip's War. Awashonks, female chief of the Sakonnet tribe, initially supports Metacomet, but later makes peace with the colonists.[33]
  • 1672: Margaretha Sandra, as well as several other women, participare in the defence of the Dutch city of Aardenburg against the French.
  • 1676: Virginia colonists request that Pamunkey chief Queen Ann furnish warriors to fight in Bacon's Rebellion. She initially refuses on the grounds that her tribe was neglected by the colonists for twenty years, but relents when the colonists promise better treatment for her tribe.
  • 1677-1689: Reign of Keladi Chennamma. During her reign of 12 years, she repelled the advances of the Mughal Army led by the infamous Aurangzeb from her military base in the kingdom of Keladi located in Sagara, Karnataka India.[34]
  • 1679: Lisbetha Olsdotter is put on trial for having served in the Swedish army under the name Mats Ersson.[24]
  • 1683: The pirate Anne Dieu-Le-Veut becomes known in the Caribbean Sea as a great fighter, one of the first of many female pirates famed for their fighting-skills.
  • 1688: A coup takes place in Siam. Women drilled in the use of muskets replace the mercenaries and samurai who had served the old government. They are led by a woman named Ma Ying Taphan.
  • 1688: Maria Jacoba de Turenne serve in the Dutch army dressed as a man [35]
  • 1690s: Kit Cavanagh disguises herself as a man in order to fight as a dragoon. She eventually fights openly as a woman.[36]
  • 1690: Anne Chamberlyne, a female tar who disguised herself as man, fights the French at Beachy Head.
  • 1697: New England colonist Hannah Duston is captured by Abenaki Native Americans during a raid. She kills ten of them while they were asleep and escapes with the other prisoners, taking their scalps with her. She is possibly the first woman in the United States to be honored with a statue.

18th century[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Petrillo, Valerie. A Kid's Guide to Asian American History: More Than 70 Activities. Chicago Review Press. p. 162. ISBN 1-55652-634-2. 
  2. ^ Rait, Satwant Kaur (2005). Sikh Women in England: Their Religious and Cultural Beliefs and Social Practices. Trentham Books. p. 47. ISBN 1-85856-353-4. 
  3. ^ Holm, Jean; John Bowker (1994). Women in Religion. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 151. ISBN 0-8264-5304-X. 
  4. ^ Salmonson, Jessica Amanda (1991). The Encyclopedia of Amazons. Paragon House. p. 208. ISBN 1-55778-420-5. 
  5. ^ Salmonson, p.11-12
  6. ^ Monthly Chronicle of North-country Lore and Legend. Published for the Proprietors of the New Castle Weekly Chronicle by Walter Scott, Newcastle-On-Tyne, and 24 Warwick Lane, Paternoster Row, London. 1888. p. 245. 
  7. ^ Salmonson, p.69
  8. ^ a b 208 (Anteckningar om svenska qvinnor)
  9. ^ Schooten, Maria van (ca. 1555-1573)
  10. ^ Walter Williams, The Spirit and the Flesh (Boston: Beacon Press, 1988, p. 233)
  11. ^ Salmonson, p.10-11.
  12. ^ Salmonson, p.53
  13. ^ Salmonson, p.82-82
  14. ^ "Ensure Belwadi Mallamma of Belgaum district gets her place in international history". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 2008-10-26. Archived from the original on 30 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  15. ^ "Women of prominence in Karnataka.". Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  16. ^ "General Shen Yunying – Complete in Loyalty and Filial Piety". Colorq.org. Retrieved 2008-06-30. 
  17. ^ "Gao Guiying – General of the Peasant Rebels". Colorq.org. Retrieved 2008-06-30. 
  18. ^ "Qin Liangyu – Commander-in-Chief of Sichuan Province". Colorq.org. Retrieved 2008-06-30. 
  19. ^ Aal de Dragonder (?-voor 1710)
  20. ^ Margaretha (?-na 1611?)
  21. ^ http://www.gustavianer.com/forskning/Kvinnorna_Kriget.pdf
  22. ^ Symons, Trijntje (?-in of na 1625)
  23. ^ Jans, Anne (?-na 1629)
  24. ^ a b c d e f Borgström Eva(Swedish) : Makalösa kvinnor: könsöverskridare i myt och verklighet (Marvelous women : genderbenders in myth and reality) Alfabeta/Anamma, Stockholm 2002. ISBN 91-501-0191-9 (inb.). Libris 8707902.
  25. ^ Jans, Maritgen (ca. 1611-1631)
  26. ^ Adriaens, Barbara Pieters (ca. 1611-na 1636)
  27. ^ Bernsen, Claus (?-na 1643)
  28. ^ Jans, Anna (ca. 1634-na 1653)
  29. ^ Pieters, Johanna (ca. 1632-na 1653)
  30. ^ Noy, Adriana La (actief 1652/1653-)
  31. ^ Gerrits, Willemtge (ca. 1646-na 1665)
  32. ^ Jacobs, Jacoba (?-na 1667)
  33. ^ Brooklyn Museum article Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art – The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Awashonks Last updated March 21, 2007.
  34. ^ Buchanan, Francis (1988). A journey from Madras through the countries of Mysore, Canara, and Malabar : for the express purpose of investigating the state of agriculture, arts and commerce, the religion, manners, and customs, the history natural and civil, and antiquities (1st AES reprint. ed.). New Delhi: Asian Educational Services. p. 126. ISBN 9788120603868. 
  35. ^ Online Dictionary of Dutch Women
  36. ^ Salmonson, p. 52
  37. ^ Salmonson, p.136.
  38. ^ Salmonson, p.219-220
  39. ^ Salmonson, p. 139
  40. ^ "Warriors: Asian women in Asian society". Colorq.org. Retrieved 2008-06-30. 
  41. ^ Women in power 1770-1800
  42. ^ Kerkhof, Petronella van de (ca. 1741-1818)
  43. ^ 134 (Anteckningar om svenska qvinnor)
  44. ^ Brugge, Geertruid ter (?-na 1706)
  45. ^ 291 (Anteckningar om svenska qvinnor)
  46. ^ Government of Jamaica, national heroes listing
  47. ^ Ho-poe-kaw (Glory of the Morning) at the Wisconsin Historical Society
  48. ^ Salmonson, p.184
  49. ^ Gijssen, Maria van de (1720?-na 1743)
  50. ^ Isabelle Bauino,Jacques Carré,Cécile Révauger: The Invisible Woman: Aspects Of Women's Work In Eighteenth-century Britain
  51. ^ FTM Contributions in HIStory
  52. ^ Duiren, Geertruit van (?-na 1748)

Further reading[edit]

  • De Pauw, Linda Grant. Battle Cries and Lullabies: Women in War from Prehistory to the Present (University of Oklahoma Press, 1998), popular history by a leading scholar
  • Dugaw, Dianne. Warrior Women and Popular Balladry: 1650-1850 (Cambridge University Press, 1989)
  • Fraser, Antonia. The Warrior Queens (Vintage Books, 1990)
  • Hacker, Barton C. "Women and Military Institutions in Early Modern Europe: A Reconnaissance," Signs (1981), v6 pp. 643–71.
  • Illston, James Michael. 'An Entirely Masculine Activity’? Women and War in the High and Late Middle Ages Reconsidered (MA thesis, University of Canterbury, 2009) full text online, with detailed review of the literature
  • Little, Ann. Abraham in Arms: War and Gender in Colonial New England (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007)
  • McLaughlin, Megan. "The Woman Warrior: Gender, Warfare and Society in Medieval Europe." Women’s Studies (1990) 17: 193-209.
  • Martino-Trutor, Gina Michelle. "Her Extraordinary Sufferings and Services”: Women and War in New England and New France, 1630-1763" PhD Dissertation, U of Minnesota, 2012. online
  • Rediker, Marcus. "Liberty Beneath the Jolly Roger: The Lives of Anne Bonny and Mary Read, Pirates" in In Iron Men, Wooden Women: Gender and Seafaring in the Atlantic World, 1700-1920 ed by Margaret Creighton and Lisa Norling, pp 1-33 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996)
  • Stolterer, Helen. "Figures of Female Militancy in Medieval France," Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 16 (1991): 522-549
  • Taufer, Alison. "The Only Good Amazon is a Converted Amazon: The Woman Warrior and Christianity in the Amadís Cycle" in Playing With Gender: A Renaissance Pursuit ed. by Jean R. Brink et al. pp 35-51. (University of Illinois Press, 1991)

External links[edit]