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.

Please see Timeline of women in war in the United States, Pre-1945 for entries pertaining specifically to the history of the United States.


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]

  • 1569: Jane Howard, Countess of Westmoreland, is instrumental in raising the troops for unsuccessful Rising of the North.
  • 1569: Brita Olofsdotter, widow after soldier Nils Simonsson, serves in the Finnish troup in the Swedish cavalry in Livonia; she is killed in battle, and king John III of Sweden orders for her salary to be paid to her family.[11]
  • 1569: Lady Agnes Campbell, married to Turlough Luineach O'Neill, Chieftain of the O'Neill's in Ulster, leads Her Scottish dowry troops against occupying English forces.
  • 1571: An Italian woman participates as a member of the Marines at the Battle of Lepanto dressed as a male.[12]
  • 1572: In defense of the city during a siege of Haarlem by Spanish troops, which lasted from December 1572 to 1573, Kenau Simonsdochter Hasselaer (1526–1588) supplied the Dutch forces with wood. She owned a wood company at Haarlem. Myth says she led a force of women defending the city and ever since "kenau" has been a Dutch expression for a harsh woman.
  • 1572: Maria van Schooten participates in the defense during the siege of Haarlem by Spanish troops, dies and are granted a military funeral: she is believed to have been one of the women who was led by Kenau Simonsdochter Hasselaer [13]
  • 1573: Trijn Rembrands allegedly participates in the defence of Alkmaar.
  • 1576: Portuguese explorer Pedro de Magalhães de Gandavo reports that some Tupinamba Indian women of northeastern Brazil "give up all the duties of women and imitate men, and follow men’s pursuits as if they were not women. They wear the hair cut in the same way as the men, and go to war with bows and arrows and pursue game, always in company with men; each has a woman to serve her, to whom she says she is married, and they treat each other and speak with each other as man and wife."[14]
  • 1577: Dutch woman Trijn van de Leemput allegedly rallies women in Utrecht against the Spanish.
  • 1580s: A woman is reported to have served as a man in the Portuguese army in Angola for a period of five years before she was discovered.
  • 1584: Mary Ambree participates in the fighting against the Spanish for the city of Ghent. A ballad is eventually written about her.[15]
  • 1587 : Catharina Rose commands a women battalion at the Spanish siege of Sluis in Flanders.
  • 1587 : An unnamed woman served in guise as a man in the Dutch army.[16]
  • 1589 : Maria Pita defends Corunna against the English armada.
  • 1589 : An unnamed woman served in guise as a man in the Dutch army.[17]
  • 1590 : Françoise de Cezelli defeats the Spanish army during the battle of Leucate
  • 1590: According to legend, Kaihime participates in the defence of Oshi Castle.
  • 1597 : Ebba Stenbock serves as commander of Turku Castle in Finland after the death of her spouse.
  • Late 16th century: Muslim Queen Chand Bibi fights the Mughals.[18]

17th century[edit]

  • Early 17th century: Catalina de Erauso fights as a soldier in Mexico, Peru, and Chile.[19]
  • 17th century: Belawadi Mallamma is the first woman to form a women's army to fight against the British and the Marathas[20] in the 17th century.[21][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 participates in warfare, and achieves renown for her bravery.[22]
  • 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.[23]
  • 17th century: Gao Guiying leads her army as a general in China.[24]
  • 17th century: Qin Liangyu commands armies in China.[25]
  • 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"[26]
  • 17th century: Akiko Yamamoto serve as one of few female samurais of her period.
  • Late 17th-century: A Finnish female serve in the French, English and Danish army dressed as a male.[27]
  • 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[28]
  • 1611: Mayken Blomme serve in the Dutch navy dressed as a man. [29]
  • 1612: Swedish Emerentia Krakow defends the Fortress of Gullberg against the Danes in the place of her wounded spouse, the commendant of the fortress.[30]
  • 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 (or Trijntje Sijmons) serve in the Dutch army dressed as a man [31]
  • 1625-1629: Anne Jans serve as sailor in the Dutch navy as Jan Janz. [32]
  • 1628: Glasmästare-Kerstin is hanged after it is discovered that she enlisted as a soldier in the Swedish army.[33]
  • 1628-1629: Maritgen Jans serve in the Dutch navy dressed as a man under the name David van Gorkum. [34]
  • 1628-1632: Barbara Pieters Adriaens serve in the Dutch army dressed as a man under the name Wilhelm Adriaens. [35]
  • June 5, 1639: Lady Ann Cunningham leads a mixed-sex cavalry troop in the Battle of Berwick.
  • 1629: Two women is discovered after having served in the Dutch army dressed as men.[36]
  • 1641: Elizabeth Dowdall successfully defends Kilfinny Castle during the Irish Rebellion.
  • 1641: Vrouwthe Frans is discovered after having served in the Dutch army dressed as a man.[37]
  • 1641: Hendrickgen Lamberts van der Schuyr served in the Dutch army dressed as a man.[38]
  • 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. [39]
  • 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.
  • 1644: Hilleke Sell and Jenneke Everts served in the Dutch army dressed as men.[40]
  • 1640s-1650s: Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba fights the Portuguese.
  • Roughly mid to late 1600s: Pashtun poet Nazo Tokhi defends a fortress. [41]
  • 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. [42]
  • 1652-1653: Johanna/Jannetje Pieters serve in the Dutch Navy as a man, Jan Pietersse, during the war against England. [43]
  • 1652-1653: Adriana La Noy serve as sailor dressed as a man in the Dutch Navy. [44]
  • 1653: Aagt de Tamboer serve in the Dutch navy dressed as a man.[45]
  • 1653: Anna Alders serve in the Dutch navy dressed as a man.[46]
  • 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. [47]
  • 1663: Annetje Barents serve in the Dutch navy dressed as a man under the name Klaas Barents.[48]
  • 1665: Jacoba Jacobs serve in the Dutch Marine as Jacob Jacobs. [49]
  • 1666: Hendrick Albertsz in the Dutch navy is discovered to have been a female dressed as a male.[50]
  • 1667: Engeltje Dirx serve in the Dutch army dressed as a man.[51]
  • 1667: Jacoba Jacobs serve in the Dutch navy dressed as a man.[52]
  • 1670: Alyona, a Russian female ataman rebel, commanded a detachment of about 600 men and participated in the capture of Temnikov.
  • 1672: Annetje Pieters serve in the Dutch navy dressed as a man; the same year, another unnamed female is discovered to have done the same.[53]
  • 1672: Margaretha Sandra, as well as several other women, participare in the defence of the Dutch city of Aardenburg against the French.
  • 1673: Elisabeth Someruell is reputed to have served as Tobias Morello in the Spanish army.[54]
  • 1673: Isabella Clara Gelvinck serve in the Dutch army dressed as a male.[55]
  • 1673: An unnamed female serve in the Dutch army dressed as a male.[56]
  • 1674: An unnamed female serve in the Dutch army dressed as a male.[57]
  • 1674: Francijntje van Lint serve in the Dutch army dressed as a male.[58]
  • 1675: An unnamed female serve in the Dutch army dressed as a male.[59]
  • 1675: An unnamed female serve in the Dutch navy dressed as a male.[60]
  • 1675–1676: King Philip's War. Awashonks, female chief of the Sakonnet tribe, initially supports Metacomet, but later makes peace with the colonists.[61]
  • 1676-1691: Geneviève Prémoy serve in the French army dressed as a male.[62]
  • 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.[63]
  • 1677: An unnamed female serve in the Dutch navy dressed as a male.[64]
  • 1679: Lisbetha Olsdotter is put on trial for having served in the Swedish army under the name Mats Ersson.[33]
  • 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.
  • 1684: Catharina Rosenbrock serve in the Dutch army as well as the navy dressed as a male.[65]
  • 1685-1688: Ilona Zrínyi defends the Palanok Castle in Munkács against the Habsburg forces.
  • 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 [66]
  • 1690s: Kit Cavanagh disguises herself as a man in order to fight as a dragoon. She eventually fights openly as a woman.[67]
  • 1690: Anne Chamberlyne, a female tar who disguised herself as man, fights the French at Beachy Head.
  • 1691: Anna Isabella Gonzaga, Duchess of Mantua, defends Mantua against the Spanish as regent during the absence of her spouse.
  • 1691-1696: Marie Magdelaine Mouron serve in the French army dressed as a male.[68]
  • 1694: An unnamed female serve in the Dutch navy dressed as a male.[69]
  • 1696: Joonas Dirckse in the Dutch navy is discovered to be a female dressed as a male.[70]

18th century[edit]

  • Early 18th century: Juliana Dias da Costa rides on a war elephant alongside her husband, Mughal emperor of India Bahadur Shah I, in battles to defend his authority.[71]
  • Early 18th century : Mary Read serves as a soldier in Belgium before becoming a pirate.[72]
  • 18th century: Kaipkire of the Herero leads forces against British slave traders.[73]
  • 18th century: Ghaliyya al-Wahhabiyya leads military resistance movement to prevent foreign takeover of Mecca.[74]
  • 18th century: Comtesse de Polignac and Marchioness de Nesle fight a duel over their mutual lover, Duc de Richelieu.
  • 18th century: The ruling Princess of Sardhana, Begum Samru (Johanna Noblis), leads her armies in war.[75]
  • 18th century: Catherina Margaretha Linck serves as a soldier in the armies of Hanover, Prussia, Hesse, and Poland.
  • 18th century: Petronella van den Kerkhof possibly serve in the Dutch army as a grenadier: however, as she was not discovered during service, this is unconfirmed [76]
  • 18th century: During the Great Northern War, Maria Faxell, the wife of a vicar, defends her village against a Norwegian attack by handing out old weapons to both men and women during her husband's absence.[77]
  • 18th century: An unnamed woman serves in the Swedish army in the Great Northern War; after the war, she is seen wearing men's clothing on the streets of Stockholm until the 1740s, where she was known as "The Rider".[11]
  • 1700 : Tarabai, a queen of the Maratha empire in India, leads a war against invading Mughals.
  • 1700 : Charlotte Amalie of Hesse-Cassel defends Copenhagen against invasion.
  • 1700 : Maria Ursula d'Abreu e Lencastro fights in the Portuguese army in India.
  • 1700 : Margareta von Ascheberg acting colonel of her dead husband's regiment during the Great Northern War.
  • 1702: Anna Isabella Gonzaga, Duchess of Mantua, defends Mantua during the War of the Spanish succession as regent during the absence of her spouse.
  • 1702: Marij Jacobs Weijers serve in the Dutch army dressed as a male.[78]
  • 1704: Mai Bhago leads Sikh soldiers against the Mughals.
  • 1705: Grietje Harmense Knipsaar serve in the Dutch army dressed as a male under the name Dirk Jansen.[79]
  • 1706: Gertruid ter Brugge seve in the Dutch dragoons and is afterward a local celebrity known as "La Dragonne".[80]
  • 1711–1721: Ingela Gathenhielm operates the Swedish Privateering fleet jointly with her husband during the Great Northern War; when widowed in 1718, she continues herself.
  • 1712-1714: Anna Jöransdotter from Finland serves in the Swedish army under the named Johan Haritu[33]
  • 1712-1717: Three unnamed females are discovered to have served in the Dutch Marines dressed as males.[81]
  • 1713-1721: Margareta Elisabeth Roos is said to have served in the Swedish army, but as she was never trialed, this is regarded as unconfirmed [33]
  • 1713-1726: Ulrika Eleonora Stålhammar serves in the Swedish army under Charles XII of Sweden during the Great Northern War[33]
  • 1713-1714: Annika Svahn, as well as several other enslaved Finnish women taken captive by the Russians, are forced to participate in the Russian conquest of Swedish Finland on the battle fields during the Greater Wrath dressed in Russian dragoon uniforms.
  • 1715: Two unnamed women are rumored among the soldiers to serve in the Swedish army, one of them a wife of one of the soldiers, who by this point was to have served for a period of four years [33]
  • 1716: Norwegian Anna Colbjørnsdatter is granted the success in the victory over the Swedes at the Battle of Norderhov in Norway during the Great Northern War 29 March 1716 by capturing 600 Swedish soldiers.
  • 1716: Norwegian Kari Hiran averts the Swedish attempt to conquer Norway by feeding them false information about the size of the Norwgian army.
  • 1716-1718: Hangbe in the Kingdom of Dahomey becomes the regent after her twin brother Akaba is killed. Oral traditions say that when Akaba died, she put on his armour and acted in his place for the rest of war in the Ouémé River valley.
  • 1719: Brita Olsdotter, an old Swedish woman, meets the Russian army, who marches against Linköping after having burnt Norrköping, and makes them turn around and leave after telling them that reinforcements were arriving to assist Linköping.[82]
  • 1720–1739: Granny Nanny, a spiritual leader of the Maroons of Jamaica, leads rebel slaves in First Maroon War against the British.[83]
  • 1722: Six unnamed females are shipped back to the Netherlands after having been exposed to have served as males in either the Dutch Marines or army in an attempt to emigrate to the Dutch East Indies.[84]
  • 1723: Lumke Thoole serve in the Dutch navy dressed as a male under the name Jan Theunisz.[85]
  • 1725: Dutch woman Maria ter Meetelen serves in the Spanish army dressed as a man.
  • 1726: Maria Elisabeth Meening serve in the Dutch navy dressed as a male.[86]
  • 1732: An unnamed female serve in the Dutch army dressed as a male.[87]
  • 1740: Ann Mills fights on the frigate Maidenstone as a dragoon.[88]
  • 1741-1743: Maria van de Gijessen serve in the Dutch navy under then name Claes van de Gijessen. [89]
  • 1744: An unnamed female serve in the Dutch navy dressed as a male.[90]
  • 1745: Jacobina (last name unknown) serve in the Dutch navy dressed as a male.[91]
  • 1745: An unnamed female serve in the Dutch navy dressed as a male.[92]
  • 1745: Countess Mary Hay raises an army of Buchan men for Prince Charles Edward Stuart.
  • 1745: Lady Anne Farquharson-MacKintosh raises 200–400 men of her clan to fight in the Jacobite rising, but does not lead them.
  • 1745: Phoebe Hessel fights in the Battle of Fontenoy. She had disguised herself as a man to do so.[93]
  • 1745: Scottish Mary Ralphson fights in the British army in Battle of Fontenoy dressed as a man[94]
  • 1746: Johanna Bennius serve in the Dutch navy dressed as a male under the name Jan Drop.[95]
  • 1746: Elisabeth Huyser serve in the Dutch army dressed as a male.[96]
  • 1746–1769: Maria van Antwerpen serves as a soldier in the Netherlands under the name Jan van Art.[97]
  • 1748: Gertruid van Duiren enlists and briefly serve in the Dutch army before being discovered[98]
  • 1750: Hannah Snell, a British woman who had disguised herself as a man in order to become a Royal Marine, has her military service officially recognized and is granted a pension.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  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. ^ Historical Dictionary of Nigeria By Toyin Falola, Ann Genova, p.160
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  6. ^ Salmonson, Jessica Amanda (1991). The Encyclopedia of Amazons. Paragon House. p. 208. ISBN 1-55778-420-5. 
  7. ^ Salmonson, p.11-12
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ War Elephants By John M. Kistler, p.208
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  11. ^ a b 208 (Anteckningar om svenska qvinnor)
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  13. ^ Schooten, Maria van (ca. 1555-1573)
  14. ^ Walter Williams, The Spirit and the Flesh (Boston: Beacon Press, 1988, p. 233)
  15. ^ Salmonson, p.10-11.
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  19. ^ Salmonson, p.82-82
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  24. ^ "Gao Guiying – General of the Peasant Rebels". Colorq.org. Retrieved 2008-06-30. 
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  30. ^ Westgiöta Gustavianer | En kulturhistorisk förening som levandegör den gustavianska tiden
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  67. ^ Salmonson, p. 52
  68. ^ John A. Lynn: The French Wars 1667-1714: The Sun King at War (2002)
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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]