Women in warfare and the military in the 19th century
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Women in society
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 women in war and their exploits from about 1800 up to about 1899.
For women in warfare in the United States at this time, please see Timeline of women in war in the United States, Pre-1945.
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 19th century worldwide (except the present US)
- Early 19th century: Geertrudia van den Heuvel serve as corporal in the Netherlands dressed as a man under the name Jacobus Philippus Vermeij.
- 1802: Bùi Thị Xuân, the general of rebel forces during the Tây Sơn Rebellion in Vietnam, is captured and executed by her enemies.
- 1802: Marie-Jeanne Lamartiniére, serves at the Battle of Crête-à-Pierrot
- 1802: Mai Sukhan defends the town of Amritsar against Ranjit Singh.
- 1802: La Mulâtresse Solitude participates in the former slaves fight for freedom in the Battle of 18 May, when slavery is reintroduced on Guadeloupe by Napoleon.
- 1803: Lorenza Avemanay leads a revolt against Spanish occupation in Ecuador.
- 1803: Madame d'Oettlinger serves as a spy of Napoleon in Germany.
- 1805: Jane Townsend serves in the Royal British marines during the Battle of Trafalgar.
- 1805: Marie-Jeanne Schellinck serve in the Battle of Austerlitz.
- 1806: Manuela Pedraza fought in the reconquest of Buenos Aires after the first British invasions of the Río de la Plata.
- 1807–1816: Nadezhda Durova serve in the Russian army. She earned the cross of St George for valour in combat and became the Russian army's first female officer.
- 1808: Juana Galán was a guerrilla fighter of the Peninsular War (1808–1814).
- 1808: Manuela Malasaña participated in The 2 May Uprising in Madrid (1808) against the troops of Napoleon I of France during the Peninsular War.
- 1808: Agustina de Aragón defends Spain during the Spanish War of Independence. During the bloody sieges of Saragossa, French General Jean-Antonie Verdier started the attack with a twenty-seven-hour bombardment of Zaragoza. At the Portillo Gate, most of the Spanish defenders had been killed or wounded, and on 2 July 1808 a French column launched an assault on the unmanned Portillo Gate battery. Observing the danger, twenty-two-year-old Agustina rushed forward to a twenty-four-pound cannon, retrieved the still-burning wick from the hands of a fallen gunner, and fired the cannon loaded with grapeshot at the advancing French column that decimated it and gave time to arrive Spanish reinforcements from a near battery to reject the attack. Agustina herself explained the facts in a memorial signed in Sevilla city in date 12 August 1810.
- 1808–1809: Elisa Servenius enlists in the Swedish army dressed as a man because "She had decided to live and to die with her husband", the soldier Bernhard Servenus; she participates in the war between Sweden and Russia about Finland, and during one battle, she collected the ammunition of the Russians and gave them to her comrades. She is later discovered, fired but decorated with a medal for bravery in battle.
- 1809–1813: Joanna Żubr serve in the Polish army. She received the Virtuti Militari, the first woman to be granted the highest Polish military award.
- 1809–1825: Juana Azurduy de Padilla acts as a guerrilla leader in Bolivia.
- 1809–1827: White explorers document Bowdash, a Kootenai two-spirit warrior.
- 1810s: Juana Ramírez commands a group of female rebel soldiers during the Venezuelan War of Independence.
- 1810s: Concepción Mariño smuggles weapons during the Venezuelan War of Independence.
- 1810, Sweden: Maria Nilsdotter i Ölmeskog dissolves a potential rebel army and are rewarded by the monarch for having prevented a rebellion.
- 1811–1817: Gertrudis Bocanegra serve as a spy, a messenger and a guerrilla fighter during the Mexican War of Independence. She is later arrested, tortured and executed.
- 1812: Female and teenage guerrillas led by Vasilisa Kozhina harass and capture French soldiers retreating from Moscow.
- 1812: Marie Manuel and her husband Blaise Peuxe serve together as gunners in a French artillery unit during the Peninsular War. They are captured together when the British Army enters Madrid in August 1812, and become prisoners of war in Scotland, where Marie is officially acknowledged as an enemy combatant rather than simply a camp follower, wearing uniform and avoiding the forcible repatriation imposed on other prisoners' attendant families. The memoirs of another prisoner hint that she was a Spanish girl who had met her husband when she saved him from guerrillas in 1811, but this source may combine the story of the husband-and-wife gunners with elements of the biographies of other female prisoners-of-war in the same group.
- 1812–1814: Francina Broese Gunningh serve in the French, the Prussian and finally in the Dutch army dressed as a male under the name Frans Gunningh Sloet.
- 1813: Eleonore Prochaska killed fighting for the Lützow Free Corps.
- 1813: Manuela Medina participates in active warfare in the Battle of Acapulco during the Mexican War of Independence.
- 1813–1815: Anna Lühring and Friederike Krüger serve in the Prussian army during the Napoleonic Wars.
- 1813: Johanna Stegen participate in the defense of the city of Lüneburg against the French.
- 1814: Ghaliyya al-Wahhabiyya defend Mecca against the Ottomans with her own Wahhabi army at the Battle of Turaba.
- 1814: Úrsula Goyzueta participate in the defense of Santa Barbara the Bolivian War of Independence.
- 1815: William Brown (birth name unknown), a Royal Navy sailor, is discovered to be a woman. She is the first black woman to serve in the Royal Navy.
- 1815: Several women are found dead in British uniforms after the Battle of Waterloo, among them Mary Dixon, who dies in service after having served sixteen years in the British army dressed as a man
- 1817: La Pola is executed by the Spanish after having served as a spy during the Colombian war of Independence.
- 1817: Martha Christina Tiahahu fights against the Dutch colonial government in Molucca, Indonesia.
- 1819: Manono II, fought along with her husband Keaoua Kekuaokalani, in the Battle of Kuamoo, where both perished in defense of the kapu system.
- 1819: Antonia Santos, a Neogranadine (now Colombia) peasant, galvanized, organized, and led the rebel guerrillas in the Province of Socorro against the invading Spanish troops during the Reconquista of the New Granada; she was ultimately captured, tried, and found guilty of lese-majesty and high treason, sentenced and ultimately put to death by firing squad.
- 1821–1824: Laskarina Bouboulina fights in the Greek War of Independence.
- 1821–1823: Manto Mavrogenous fights in the Greek War of Independence.
- 1821: Rallou Karatza participates in the Greek war of Independence.
- 1822: Angélique Brûlon, a female soldier who had in defence of Corsica from 1792–1799, is promoted to lieutenant. She had originally fought while disguised as a man, but eventually fought openly as a woman. She retires the same year.
- 1822: Maria Quitéria fights in the Brazilian war of independence.
- 1824: Queen Kittur Chennamma of the Kittur kingdom in India fights the British.
- 1828–1830: Tarenorerer leads a guerrilla band of Indigenous Australians of both sexes against the British colonists in Tasmania.
- 1831–32: Countess Emilia Plater compose and command a company of Infantry as captain during the Polish November uprising. Several other women served openly as soldiers during this Polish rebellion against Russia, although not many are named; Soltyk reported that a beautiful girl of eighteen fought at the Russian crossfier at the Vola trenches in Warsaw 4 September 1831, and he added that "there where not one troop of our army, where not one or more of these heroines fought".
- 1838–1839: Johanna Martens serve in the Dutch army dressed as a man to be near to her lover, a soldier.
- 20 January 1839: Sergeant Candelaria Perez fights in the Battle of Yungay.
- 1841: Ana María Martínez de Nisser participated in the Battle of Salamina 5 May 1841 during the War of the Supremes.
- 1843: The slave Carlota was one of the three leaders of the slave rebellion of Year of the Lash on Cuba.
- 1844–1846: María Trinidad Sánchez participate as a courier in the Dominican War of Independence.
- 1848: Luisa Battistati defends Milan during the Revolution of 1848.
- 1848: Luise Aston serves in the Freikorps during the war in Schleswig.
- 1848: Mária Lebstück (1831–1892) was a Hussar officer during the Hungarian War of Independence of 1848 and 1849 under the name Károly Lebstück.
- 1848: Pelaghia Roşu commands a battalion of females in defense of her village during the failed revolutionary attempt.
- 1848: Paulina Pfiffner serve in the Hungarian forces dressed as a man under the name Ligeti Kalman during the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 and is promoted to the rank of officer after having distinguished herself by her bravery during the Battle of Piski.
- 1848: Júlia Bányai serve as a spy as well as a soldier in the Hungarian army during the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.
- 1850s: Su Sanniang joins the Taiping Rebellion with her army of outlaws and commands them in combat against the Imperial forces.
- 1850s: Qiu Ersao commands 500 female rebel soldiers against the Imperial forces during the Taiping Rebellion.
- 1850s: Hong Xuanjiao commands the female units of the rebel army against the Imperial forces during the Taiping Rebellion.
- 1851: Júlia Bányai participates in the uprising against Austria in Transylvania.
- 1851: Seh-Dong-Hong-Beh of the Dahomey Amazons leads an all-female army of 6,000 into battle against the Egba fortress of Abeokuta.
- 1854: Florence Nightingale (a British nurse) revolutionised both the care of sick soldiers in the Crimean War, and also expectations of the role of women of her status.
- 1856: Pancha Carrasco takes part in the Second Battle of Rivas in Costa Rica. While serving the militia as a cook and impromptu medic, filled her apron pockets with bullets, grabbed a discarded rifle and shamed some of the retreating Costa Ricans forestalling what might have become a rout.
- 1857: Last stand of Lalla Fatma N'Soumer, an Algerian woman who resisted French colonialism.
- 1857–1858: Indian queen Rani Lakshmibai leads battles against the British. A member of her army, Indian resistance leader Jalkari Bai, defends Jhansi fort against the British.
- 1857–1858: Begum Hazrat Mahal leads a band of her supporters against the British in the Indian rebellion of 1857.
- 1858, 28 March: After personally leading a campaign against the British to regain her throne from them, Avantibai of the Indian state of Ramgarth kills herself when defeat seems imminent.
- 1863: Anna Henryka Pustowojtowna fights in the Polish uprising dressed as a man.
- 25 July 1865: Retired military Inspector General, H.M. Army Hospitals, Doctor James Barry, dies. Upon inspection of the corpse, it is discovered that Barry was in fact, female assigned at birth.
- 1865: Jovita Feitosa joins the Brazilian army during the Paraguayan War.
- October 1868: In Japan, Nakano Takeko and a group of other women take part in the Battle of Aizu.
- 1870: Jane Dieulafoy serve as a soldier in the French army alongside her spouse dressed as a man during the Franco-Prussian war.
- 1876: In southern Japan, the women of Satsuma take an active, offensive role in the Seinan War.
- 1877: Nene Hatun fought against Russian forces during the recapture of Fort Aziziye in Erzurum from Russian forces at the start of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878.
- 1879: Irene Morales serve in the Chilean army during the War of the Pacific dressed as a man.
- 1879: Filomena Valenzuela Goyenechea serve in the Chilean army during the Battle of Pisagua, Battle of Dolores and Battle of Los Ángeles during the War of the Pacific.
- 1880: Malalai of Maiwand rallies local Pashtun fighters at the Battle of Maiwand during the Second Anglo-Afghan War. She fought alongside Ayub Khan and was responsible for the Afghan victory.
- 1881: Antonia Moreno Leyva accompanies her spouse on the Breña campaign during the War of the Pacific, and actively commands battalions during his absence.
- 1885: Women started serving with the Canadian military in 1885, as nurses.
- 1883: Marieta de Veintemilla, the niece and first lady of president Ignacio de Veintemilla, takes control of the capital, the government and its military forces in the name of her absent uncle and commands the defense of the capital of Quito when it is attacked by the rebels.
- March 1, 1896: Taytu Betul marches to the Battle of Adwa with the Ethiopian imperial army, and commands a force of cannonners.
- 1896: Philippine Revolution breaks out. Filipina woman Melchora Aquino becomes known as the "Grand Woman of the Revolution" and the "Mother of Balintawak" for her direct assistance to the revolutionaries.
- 1896: Shona spiritual leader Nehanda Nyakasikana rebels against colonization of Zimbabwe.
- 1899–1900: Lin Hei'er commands the Red Lantern Unit of women rebel soldiers during the Boxer Rebellion.
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